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Herpan...what? The virus your child has likely had and you didn't even know it!

Updated: Nov 29, 2021


What is Herpangina?

Herpangina is a virus that many of us and our children have likely had and we didn't even know it. It is most easily described as a cousin to Hand Foot Mouth Disease, a virus that many of us have heard of and is very prevalent among daycares and schools, but anyone can get it.


Most often the virus presents itself with a high fever that comes out of nowhere (usually between 102 and 104 degrees). The symptoms can then be best broken down by age groups:

  • Young - Not wanting to eat or drink. They may not be wanting to take their bottle or nurse, this may be obvious at first or just slightly less. Vomiting is a symptom that you may notice that seems random. They also may be very fussy and irritable.

  • Older children/Adults- The symptoms are more specific in older kids and adults because they are able to express what they are feeling. These symptoms may include a headache, sore throat, or abdominal pain.

These symptoms often mimic many other illnesses, therefore, it is often necessary to see your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis. This is often why this virus goes undiagnosed, because the symptoms may have resolved on their own in a short time and a visit to the doctor may not have felt warranted.

How is this virus diagnosed?

The virus is diagnosed by a healthcare provider through both the physical exam findings and symptoms that your child is experiencing. On the physical exam, your healthcare provider likely will see small ulcer lesions that can be most commonly found in the back of the throat, tongue or gums. This often differentiates Herpangina from Hand Foot Mouth Disease, because the lesions are localized to the mouth. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish Herpangina from other illnesses i.e. strep throat, which closely mimics these symptoms. In this case a strep swab may be recommended by your provider.

How is it spread?

This virus is spread similarly to most viruses through bodily secretions. Often times in children this means mucous from the nose, drool, or stool. Unfortunately, the virus is often spread during the first week of illness, sometimes prior to symptoms being noticed.


Thankfully, Herpangina goes away on its own within approximately 1 week of symptoms onset. The key is to manage the symptoms, which includes pain control and maintaining hydration. As you can imagine by the description, these mouth ulcers are very painful. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are often used to manage this pain. In addition, decreasing foods and liquids that may cause irritation are important. Sticking to a diet of cold, bland food is often helpful. Staying away from anything spicy or acidic is recommended.


This virus typically comes with few complications. The biggest complication that we must monitor for is dehydration. It is important to continue to encourage fluids and bottles.


Because it is spread through those bodily secretions good hand hygiene is the top priority. Teaching your children to wash their hands with soap and water during and for a couple weeks after symptoms will help prevent the spread. It is also recommended to disinfect toys and surfaces.


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The information contained on Perfectly Unprepared is for informational and educational purposes only. The content solely represents the views and opinions of Perfectly Unprepared. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or heard on Perfectly Unprepared.

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