Even though I’m a nurse, coxsackievirus is new to me. But it’s in the same family as one virus I know well.
Different strains of coxsackievirus, also known as coxsackievirus A16, are usually the culprit behind hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD). That's a virus most of us have heard of, if not already had the pleasure of dealing with.
Coxsackievirus is actually a type of virus in the enterovirus family. These are common during pregnancy.
Most of the time, the virus doesn’t pose serious danger to you or your baby. But there are a few things you need to know.
Coxsackievirus, in the form of HFMD, is most common in children under the age of 5. But it can occasionally affect adults. The virus is more common in certain parts of the world, such as Asia.
The symptoms of HFMD include:
- general feeling of sickness
- sore throat
- painful mouth sores or blisters
- skin rash developing on the elbows, feet, or genital areas
For adults, the virus may not give you any symptoms.
Having the coxsackievirus virus during pregnancy may pose a slight risk to your baby. But that’s only if the virus is able to pass through the placenta. The chance of that happening is very small.
Having the coxsackievirus slightly increases the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth, as is the case with any infection during pregnancy.
HFMD is more risky if the woman acquires the virus near the end of her pregnancy. An infection near delivery carries more risk of stillbirth, or HFMD in the newborn.
There has also been some evidence that the virus is linked to congenital heart defects and other anomalies in babies. But there’s conflicting data on whether or not the virus definitely causes those problems.
Confusing, I know. But the odds are having the virus doesn't necessarily mean your baby will suffer later on. Which is good news, indeed.
HFMD and other conditions caused by the coxsackievirus family are commonly seen in young children. That’s why it's more likely that you'll come into contact with the virus while caring for other kids.
If you have other children with HFMD and are pregnant, here are a few tips to help navigate caring for both of you.
- Wash hands often. Try to wash your hands after each contact with your child.
- Wear a face mask. Some doctors recommend a face mask if your child has a serious runny nose and cough. As any parent knows, that snot is going to get on you, no matter how often you wash your hands.
- Don’t pick blisters. It's very important not to pick at your child's blisters. Blister fluid can be contagious.
- Don’t share. Avoid sharing drinks, toothbrushes, or anything that comes into contact with saliva. The virus lives in saliva, so it may just mean a break from baby kisses for now.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration is always a risk with infections during pregnancy. It can cause other complications like contractions or premature labor. Drink plenty of water, even if you don't have any symptoms of the virus.
If you develop coxsackievirus during pregnancy, talk to your doctor. The chance of potential risks are small, but do your best to prevent being exposed with careful hand washing and avoid exposure.
Take care of yourself first, and rest assured that you're doing the best you can to take care of your baby in the process.
Chaunie Brusie, BSN, is a registered nurse with experience in labor and delivery, critical care, and long-term care nursing. She lives in Michigan with her husband and four young children, and is the author of the book “Tiny Blue Lines.”