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Illness Spotlight: Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

What is Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD)?

HFMD is a common complaint seen in the office. It is a viral illness that typically affects children under the age of 5, but truly anyone can get it. Symptoms of HFMD generally include a (sometimes itchy) rash to the palms, soles, and lesions inside the mouth. Other symptoms may include a rash to other parts of the body, fever, cold symptoms, sore throat, decreased appetite, and just overall feeling "yucky!" Symptoms typically last 7-10 days. HFMD peaks in the summer and fall seasons.

How is it transmitted?

HFMD is caused by a group of viruses within the Enterovirus family. It most commonly caused by coxsackievirus A16.

The virus is passed from one infected person to another through close contact, sneezing, coughing, contact with contaminanted surfaces, contact with infected stool, and sometimes (but rarely) infected water, such as a swimming pool.

The incubation period (the time from when a person is infected to when you start to see symptoms) is on average 3-6 days.

People are most contagious during the first week of illness, but can continue to shed the virus for weeks after.

HFMD is very contagious. So- please stay home from school, daycare, and work when you or your child is sick.

Is it dangerous?

Most cases of HMFD are mild and can be managed from home. The big concern is the risk of dehydration due to the painful more sores. Although rare, HFMD can lead to viral meningitis or encephalitis.

How is it treated?

HFMD is caused by a virus, which usually does not require any special treatment. Your child should be able to get better on his/her own. Hydration is crucial! Be sure to offer your child plenty of fluids. Remember, fluid comes in many forms!! I'm ok if it is in the form of popsicles! I also recommend avoiding scratchy or sharp foods (think: pretzels, chips etc.).

Over-the-counter medications such as Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen can also be helpful if he/she is in any pain. (Remember: Do not given Aspirin to anyone under the age of 18).

How can I prevent HFMD?

  • Wash your hands (and often)!

  • Clean commonly used items (toys, books, doorknobs, counter surfaces)

  • Don't touch your face and avoid putting hands in your eyes, mouth, or nose

Can adults get it?

Yes. HFMD is not as common in adulthood but it happens! Often, a parent may get it from their child. The symptoms are not always the same in adults- some adults may not have any symptoms at all, while others may develops more painful and bothersome symptoms than their children.

When should I follow up with my child's primary care provider?

Due to painful sores in the mouth, some kids may not drink enough to meet hydration needs. If he or she is not drinking well or is not urinating as often, be sure to get them checked out. If symptoms appear to be severe or worsening or if your child is immunocompromised, make an appointment to be evaluated. As always, when in doubt, have your child seen by his or her provider.

One more fun fact before I go.....

HFMD can lead to fingernail and toenail loss. Good news- the nails grow back on their now.

Until next time,





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