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Herpetic Whitlow

What is herpetic whitlow?

Herpetic whitlow is a viral infection that usually occurs on one or more fingers. The same virus that causes cold sores usually causes herpetic whitlow. Most often the virus starts in the mouth and then enters the fingers through a break in the skin when your child sucks his thumb or finger.

What are the symptoms?

Your child may have:

  • painful fingers
  • redness
  • blisters in a cluster on the fingertips
  • fever.

Your child's health care provider can usually diagnose herpetic whitlow from a physical exam. Lab tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis.

How can I take care of my child?

You can give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for both fever and pain.

Your child's dose is _____________.

Your health care provider may decide to treat your child with an antiviral medicine.

Your child's medicine is ____________to be given _______ times a day for ______________days.

The fluid in the blisters is infectious. Cover the blisters with clothing (such as gloves or socks) or put gauze held in place by a bandage or tape lightly around the blister.

How long does it last?

Herpetic whitlow can last from 2 to 6 weeks.

When should I call my child's health care provider?

Call your IMMEDIATELY if:

  • Your child complains of eye pain.

Call your during office hours if:

  • the red area has increased in size
  • red streaks appear on the skin
  • the blisters start to drain pus.
Written by Kathryn Emery, MD, The Children's Hospital, Denver.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-09-12
Last reviewed: 2006-08-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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