What is Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common virus that is typical in babies and children under five. Parents may mistake it for chicken pox because it yields similar looking blisters, however hand, foot and mouth disease is a different illness that is spread through coming in contact with infected bodily fluids.
Here’s what you need to know about hand, foot and mouth disease:
What causes hand, foot and mouth disease?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is caused by the enterovirus. It is most common in infants and children younger than five. Note, this is different than huff and mouth disease that is carried by animals.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is marked by fever, lethargy and a sore throat. Approximately two days after getting the first symptoms, children develop blisters or red bumps concentrated on their hands, feet and in their mouths, as well as sometimes on their bottoms, genitals, knees and elbows. Symptoms may not show up until three to six days after initial exposure to the virus.
How is hand, foot and mouth disease spread?
Hand, foot and mouth disease spreads through bodily fluids. Coughing, sneezing, sharing food or utensils or coming into contact with infected feces can spread the virus. Babies are highly susceptible to hand, foot and mouth disease because they are often crawling on surfaces or playing with toys where the disease may linger and they tend to put things in their mouths. Spreading hand, foot and mouth disease through feces is quite common if babies or caregivers don’t properly wash after diaper changes. Feces can harbor the virus for several months after the child has had the disease.
What is the treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease?
Because it is a virus, there is no prescription medication that can get rid of hand, foot and mouth disease. If cleared by a doctor, babies and children can take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce fever and pain. Parents should encourage lots of drinking for hydration or serve hydrating foods like fruit popsicles or soups if drinking is too painful. Avoid acidic foods that may irritate mouth sores.
What precautions can be taken to avoid hand, foot and mouth disease?
Stay away from children or families who have hand, foot and mouth disease. Wash your hands and your child’s hands often. Clean toys and surfaces to avoid spreading the disease. If your child’s school or daycare has an outbreak, discuss how they are addressing it to be sure they help you prevent your child from getting sick.
Sources: WebMD and CDC