Singer-songwriter Pink recently shared the struggle of caring for a child with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, an experience many parents know all too well. This common condition is known for its miserable symptoms and contagious nature, often spreading quickly through daycare centers and classrooms.
To learn more about how we can try to prevent Hand, Foot and Mouth (HFM), we talked to Florida Hospital Kids Urgent Care physician Dr. Emeline Ramos. According to Dr. Ramos, Pink’s son’s HFM is one case of many this time of year.
“Hand, Foot and Mouth can occur in any season, but it’s commonly seen from spring to fall,” she says. “I think of it as a disease of the end of summer — that’s usually when I see the most cases of HFM.”
Highly Contagious Kids
“Hand, Foot and Mouth is primarily a disease of young children,” said Dr. Ramos. “We see it in infants and children younger than 5 years of age. Although it’s uncommon for adults to get HFM, it is possible.”
The disease is spread through contact with nasal discharge, saliva, feces or fluids from an infected person. That’s why it’s passed so easily between little ones: they share toys and food, are in close contact with one another and put their hands in their mouths often.
“Typically, children are contagious within the first week of illness. It’s also possible to be contagious days to weeks after the illness has resolved. Adults may have the disease, not exhibit symptoms, but still spread the virus,” Dr. Ramos explained.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should stay home while you’re sick with Hand, Foot and Mouth to help protect others from being infected. Keep children home until their fever goes away and their sores have healed. This will help reduce the spread of illness, but it won’t eliminate it completely. If you’re not sure when to return to work or send your children back to school, ask your health care provider.
Dr. Ramos advised that children who have contracted Hand, Foot and Mouth may develop a variety of symptoms in stages.
“You may start to see fever and malaise. Then children will develop sore throat and refuse to eat. They may also drool a lot. This is usually from the painful sores they develop inside the mouth,” she said.
“Then you’ll see the lesions/blisters on their palms and the soles of their feet. Some children develop lesions on their buttocks and genital area and on the back of their legs. There are cases of children who get the lesions all over their bodies.”
Medical Treatment and Home Care
Treatment for Hand, Foot and Mouth is supportive care. Unfortunately, this is a condition that simply takes time to heal.
“You want to make sure you have Tylenol and or Motrin available for fever and pain,” says Dr. Ramos. “The lesions in the mouth and on the skin are painful. Giving them analgesic medication will help them feel better and hopefully allow them to drink liquids. Hydration is also very important in treating these children. Because the lesions in the mouth hurt, children tend to not want to eat or drink. This can then lead to dehydration, which could lead to them needing IV hydration. So in order to avoid a visit to the ER, make sure that the children are well hydrated with oral rehydration solutions.”
If your little one experiences extreme discomfort, shows signs of dehydration or has a fever that lasts more than 3 days, talk to your pediatrician or visit a Centra Care location.
There is no vaccine for Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, so prevention techniques are especially important — even more important if you know it’s going around your child’s school or daycare.
Prevention strategies recommended by the CDC include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the bathroom
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with an infected person, including kissing, hugging and sharing cups and eating utensils
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs