Nov 17, 2023 /
Colds & Illnesses
By Spencer Noyce, DNP, APRN, FNP-C / Grow Up Great
Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a viral infection that is common in children 5 years old or younger, but any person can get it. HFMD can be present with or without fever and can cause painful sores on the inside of the mouth and throat as well as a rash on the hands and feet, hence the name. It also often appears in the diaper area. The rash may look like flat red spots or red blisters. Although this illness is typically not serious, it is highly contagious and can spread quickly through schools and daycares or amongst siblings at home.
HFMD is spread through person-to-person contact via unwashed hands, the fecal-oral route, droplets from coughing or sneezing, and touching surfaces that may be contaminated. It is also spread from the fluid-filled blisters that form as a result of the virus.
HFMD is highly contagious. An individual is most likely to spread HFMD during the first week of being sick, however, people can also spread the virus for days to weeks after symptoms have resolved.
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent the spread of HFMD. If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Always wash hands after changing diapers or assisting a child in the restroom, after using the restroom, after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose, and after caring for someone who is sick. Children may need help with washing their hands thoroughly and teaching them to avoid touching blisters (or cover them with clothing) to prevent the spread of infection.
There is no specific treatment for HFMD other than controlling the fever and pain caused by the mouth sores. You can give your child Tylenol or Ibuprofen as needed to manage symptoms. Kids can get dehydrated since it’s painful to swallow, so it’s also important to ensure that your child drinks plenty of fluids. Cold food items like popsicles and smoothies can also help numb the area and provide relief.
Call your pediatrician if your child’s fever lasts more than three days, symptoms are getting worse, or if your child shows signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, peeing less than usual, or having fewer wet diapers. If your child is younger than 6 months old or has a weakened immune system, see your pediatrician as well.
If the fever has resolved, there is no uncontrolled drooling related to the mouth sores, and your child feels well enough to participate in classroom activities, it’s probably safe to return to school or daycare. Children with widespread blisters may need to stay home until the blisters dry up as the fluid can spread the virus.
Knowledge is power, so as always, if you have any further questions or concerns regarding HFMD, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician.
©2023 Wasatch Pediatrics