What is Herpangina?

Herpangina is a type of viral disease that commonly affects children especially during the hot summer season but could also be present during fall. The term is Greek in origin: “herp” (creeping or snake-like) and “angina” (a choking sore throat). The name may ring a bell to you because it sounds like herpes but this is not in any way related to herpes virus infection.

The formation of painful mouth sores, ulcers or blisters following a fever is the primary manifestation of herpangina. The condition was first described in 1920. Though children are the ones primary affected by this condition, adults may also be affected. Statistically speaking, outbreaks have been found to be between the months of August and October, specifically within the northern hemisphere.

Herpangina actually develops due to a number of causes with coxsackie group A viruses and enteroviruses being the leading culprits. Parents should know more about this condition as children are majorly affected with this. Kids suffering from herpangina would often refuse to eat or perhaps drink because of the painful mouth lesions. Thus, nourishment as well as fluid replacement is critical in herpangina because they are at a high risk for dehydration.

Herpangina Symptoms

The manifestation of herpangina may differ among children. However, when you have noted the the following symptoms in a child, you could suspect of herpangina:

  • Enanthem – These are ulcers and blisters forming on the mucous membranes at the back of the throat, specifically on the soft palate, uvula, tonsils and also the posterior pharynx and these may last within a week. Often, these ulcers may be whitish with red borders and usually around 2-4 millimeters in size.
  • High Fever – The onset of the disease may be marked by fever which may spike up to as high as 106F.
  • Rashes – Rashes may also develop but not all the time.
  • Lymphadenopathy – The lymph nodes, specifically those located on the neck, may be enlarged due to the ongoing infectious process.
  • Odynophagia – Pain upon swallowing may also be noted due to the presence of mouth sores and blisters.
  • Loss of appetite- The majority of kids with herpangina don’t have the appetite to eat primarily due to painful swallowing.
  • Headache
  • Drooling
  • Backache
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Children would usually get sick within around 4-6 following exposure to the causative agent. Soon as the above symptoms are noted, strict isolation would help control the spread of the disease.


There’s really no definite diagnosis for herpangina. Diagnosing the disease would entirely depend on its clinical manifestations. It is also possible to obtain swab samples from the throat but it would take awhile to isolate and determine the causative agent and by that time the infection have already resolved. Another possible way of diagnosing herpangina is through counting the coxsackie virus antibodies that are present.

Herpangina Causes

Coxsackie group A viruses are found to be the leading causes of herpangina. The remaining of the cases is due to enterovirus infection. Being infected with one strain of coxsackie virus allows you to develop immunity to it. However, you may still get infected by the other strains of the virus. Herpangina, being a viral infection, is usually transmitted via respiratory of fecal-oral route. Getting in close contact with soiled items or maybe the mucous infected with the virus would likely make one sick of herpangina. It usually takes around two weeks before symptoms would begin to manifest. The asymptomatic stage of the disease is also the time that this can be easily transmitted. On the other hand, enteroviruses may cause mild or even no symptoms at all making the disease transmission a whole lot easier. Nearly 50% of those suffering from herpangina with enterovirus as the main cause remained asymptomatic during the whole course of the disease. Children could easily contract the disease in both the school and home. It is very crucial that the infection is controlled because this can be easily spread.

Herpangina Treatment

Just like any viral infections, herpangina is a self-limiting one and treatment would often be palliative. Generally, the treatment for herpangina is specific to its symptoms and these include:

Acetaminophen – This is the drug commonly prescribed to patients with herpangina to relieve them from fever.

Lidocaine – Topical anesthetics like lidocaine may also be given to alleviate pain.

Magic mouthwash – This is considered to be an alternative pain remedy for herpangina.

Fluid replacement therapy – Rehydration is really imperative in patients with herpangina to prevent dehydration.

These are among the commonly given treatments for herpangina. However, this does not mean that parents can already self-medicate because these medications also have serious effects especially when given at a higher dose. Also you have to remember that antibiotics are of no use as herpangina is caused by a virus.

Is Herpangina Contagious?

Herpangina is certainly a contagious disease because it is caused by a virus. This can also be easily spread by getting close contact with infectious items.


Parents should not entirely fret when their kids have herpangina as the condition would just resolve on its own. They would just eventually recover within a week or two. Complications rarely develop in herpangina but when they occur they can also be easily treated so there’s really nothing to worry about.


Herpangina may be contagious but this can be easily prevented. Good hygiene is the key of it all. Hand washing is essential so as to control the spread of herpangina infection especially among kids. However, this does not guarantee that the infection can be completely controlled because as mentioned earlier, 50% of the total cases remain asymptomatic.


Here are some facts to sum up herpangina in a nutshell:

  • This condition generally affects children, usually 3-10 years of age.
  • This is common during summer.
  • Fever followed by the development of mouth sores that progress to vesicles (blister) are the defining characteristics of herpangina
  • There’s no specific diagnosis for herpangina.
  • Treatment for herpangina is often supportive and specific to the symptoms.
  • Kids with herpangina would completely recover in a week or so with less medical attention.

Herpangina Pictures

Picture collection of Herpangina…

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