Just when you think you can sit back and relax, you get the notice from daycare that your child may have been exposed to hand, foot, and mouth disease.
What to Know About Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
Don’t panic! Dr. Kiley Ottervanger, at UnityPoint Clinic Pediatrics, has answers for all of your questions.
Q: What is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?
A: Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that is caused by many different viruses, but most commonly Coxsackieviruses or Enteroviruses. It most commonly affects children under the age of 5, although, rarely, older children and adults may be affected. The occurrence of these viruses is most common in the summer and fall, although it can occur at any time.
Q: How do I know if my child has Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?
A: Common symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease include fever and rash.
- The fever is generally present in the first few days of illness.
- The rash looks like small red bumps or blisters and, as the name implies, is most often present on the hands, feet, and around the mouth.
Children may also have sores on their tongue, roof of their mouth, or back of their throat. Another common location to have the rash is on the buttocks and genital region. The oral sores may be quite painful, and you may notice your child drooling excessively, refusing to eat or drink and exhibiting general fussiness.
The rash and oral sores may take a week or more to resolve. They will typically blister and then crust over. In some cases, a few weeks after the acute illness you may see peeling of hands and feet or loss of toenails or fingernails.
Q: What should I do if I think my child has Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?
A: The best thing you can do for your child is to keep them as comfortable as possible. You can give them medications for fever and/or pain, such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen.
Because your child may not want to eat or drink much, it is important to monitor them closely for dehydration and encourage fluids as much as possible. Offer soft foods such as yogurt, pudding, Jell-O or ice cream and avoid anything spicy, acidic or crunchy. Electrolyte-based popsicles are great, as well. I find it helpful to try to time dosing of pain medications about 20-30 minutes before desired meal times.
If your child is not urinating at least every six hours or their fever lasts more than three to four days, call your doctor or seek medical care. Additionally, call your child’s doctor if the fever goes away and comes back or symptoms fail to improve within two weeks.
A: Hand, foot, and mouth disease is quite contagious and is spread by the bodily fluids of an infected person. The virus can be spread through:
- Fluid from one of the sores
Try to keep your home disinfected as much as possible, especially if other children or adults are using the same bathroom. The virus is most contagious for about a week, particularly while fever is present. The virus may live in the body for weeks after the symptoms have gone away. We suggest continuing to be cautious for two to three weeks after diagnosis.
Q: Can my child go to daycare or school with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?
A: Because hand, foot, and mouth disease is so contagious, it is best to keep your child out of daycare or school during the most contagious period of illness to help prevent the spread of disease. Your child’s daycare may have guidelines established for this, so be sure to check and make them aware of your child’s illness.
Children should not have a fever for 24 hours prior to returning to daycare or school and some settings may require all the lesions to be crusted over before returning. I would also recommend keeping your child home if they are still drooling a lot and not eating or drinking well.
Q: Can my child catch Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease more than once?
A: Unfortunately, yes. Prior infection with these viruses does not provide lasting immunity and your child may be at risk for multiple episodes of hand, foot, and mouth disease. The most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of infection is to wash hands often and well with soap and water. Avoid any contact with anyone who is sick until they no longer have symptoms and disinfect contaminated surfaces.
According to Dr. Ottervanger, hand, foot, and mouth disease is generally a mild illness. Before you know it, your little one will be back to normal and ready to take on the world. But remember, if you have any questions or concerns about your child, be sure to talk to your doctor. At UnityPoint Health, our pediatricians are here to listen and partner with you.
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This post is part of a series of sponsored posts by UnityPoint Health Des Moines.