Pardon our pun, but we’ve seen a “rash” of hand-foot-and-mouth (HFM) disease cases in the last few weeks. This viral infection is contagious but HFM is generally a mild condition requiring home care and a little TLC to treat. However, parents are of course concerned and would like to know more – so we’re here to answer the most common questions.
Is HFM like Foot-and-Mouth Disease?
Foot-and-Mouth, or Hoof-and-Mouth, disease is found in farm animals and is completely different. Your child cannot get HFM from animals and cannot infect animals with HFM.
How would my child get HFM?
HFM is most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus, spread through bodily fluids like mucus, saliva, fluid from blisters or stool, from sneezing, coughing or poor hygiene after toileting. HFM usually affects children under 10, most commonly those under 5. HFM is common in schools and child care centers in summer and fall in Chicagoland, so we’re at the peak season for HFM.
What should I watch for if my child has been exposed to HFM?
It takes about three to six days for symptoms to appear after your child is infected. While a fever and sore throat are usually the first indicators of HFM, the name of this condition says a great deal about other symptoms.
- Hand-Foot. Watch for a red rash that may blister on the palms of your child’s hands, the soles of her feet and perhaps on her buttocks. This rash will probably not itch.
- Mouth. Your child may experience painful, red lesions that look like blisters on his tongue, gums and the inside of his cheeks.
- No appetite.
- Irritability in infants and toddlers.
- General feeling of being unwell
How is HFM treated?
Because HFM is a mild disease, home care is usually adequate to relieve your child’s discomfort.
• Make sure your child is getting thorough rest.
• Push fluids like water and milk. Avoid acidic liquids like juice or soda as these can aggravate the pain of lesions.
• Follow the label directions carefully while administering pain relievers such as Tylenol or Motrin.
Should I call Alzein Pediatrics?
Your child will usually recover within a week to 10 days with home care, rest and a special attention. However, if mouth lesions or a sore throat restrict your child’s fluid intake, or if symptoms worsen instead of improving after a few days, call us. Dehydration can be very serious in young children and may require IV fluids. If your child’s symptoms worsen, we will want to screen for viral meningitis and encephalitis.
Can I prevent HFM?
There are steps you can take to lessen your family’s risk of contracting HFM. Teach your children to wash their hands often throughout the day and especially after using the bathroom. Disinfect your home, especially the bathroom and kitchen, often. Disinfect toys, pacifiers and other shared objects. Keep infected family members away from others and thoroughly wash in hot water and a mild bleach solution any utensils, cups, plates and other shared objects they may have used.
Why don’t older children seem to get HFM?
Over time, your child will develop an immunity to HFM after repeated exposure and, while possible, it’s uncommon for adults and teens to contract it.
With your care, your child should feel better and see symptoms disappear in seven to ten days. However, the virus can live in your child (and you!) for several weeks after symptoms clear, and she can still infect others. Keep your child home from school or day care until lesions have healed and the fever is gone for at least 24 hours.
If you have additional questions about hand-foot-and-mouth disease or your child’s overall health, we are here to help! Call Alzein Pediatric Associates at 708-424-7600 or click here to make an appointment.