Is it Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease or Rotavirus?

Portrait of little boy sleeping in a hospital bed
Rotavirus or hand, foot and mouth disease. Westend61 / Getty Images

A reader asks:

"My Grandsons are 10 months and 3 years old and have had all the symptoms described, but also have little blisters in the mouth, on the fingers and toes plus a rash on the body. It is painful to swallow, let alone eat. Would you think this would be rotavirus? Is rotavirus the same as what the doctor called hand, foot & mouth virus?"

The symptoms you describe are part of hand, foot, and mouth disease, which is caused by the coxsackievirus.

It's important to watch your grandsons to make sure they are getting enough fluids. Dehydration is a problem due to fever and because it's painful to eat and drink.

If the fever lasts more than a few days, you should contact the boys' health care provider.

You mention that the boys have other symptoms and ask about rotavirus. The symptoms are not the same and the illnesses are indeed different -- they are even caused by different types of viruses. If the boys are having any of the symptoms of rotavirus (for example diarrhea and vomiting) then you should notify your health care provider since these could be signs of a more serious illness.

In addition, if the boys already have hand, foot and mouth disease, there's nothing to say that they couldn't also have contracted rotavirus. If so, the chances for dehydration become considerably more serious, since not only are you battling fluid depletion from prolific diarrhea and vomiting, but getting the boys rehydrated is more difficult because you can't get them to take in enough fluids due to the pain from the mouth blisters.

Rehydration via an IV would be the best route, and this happens even in children with rotavirus who seem to be taking fluids well. It's just hard to keep up when so much fluid is leaving the body.

Don't take any chances with the boys' health if new symptoms have emerged. Call the doctor, and be sure and report everything you observe so an accurate diagnosis can be reached.