Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a contagious illness that can be caused by many different viruses within the Enterovirus family. It is most common in children but can affect adults as well. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is often characterized by a rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet and sores inside the mouth. Infants will sometimes get a rash in the diaper area as well.
Here are the most common symptoms associated with hand-foot-and-mouth disease:
- Rash on the palms and soles; sometimes visible on the buttocks or diaper area, arms and legs
- Sores inside the mouth
- Sore throat
- Lack of appetite
- Irritability in children
- Excessive drooling in young children
This illness is transmitted from person to person through hands contaminated with feces, saliva, secretion produced when coughing or sneezing, or fluid in the blister (if there are any). As most viral illness, there is no specific treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease. To help prevent the onset of this illness, it is important to avoid contact with sick individuals and practice proper hand hygiene.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is contagious and can be easily spread, so it is recommended that you keep your child out of daycare or school and at home away from others if they have fever or open blisters. They can go back to school or daycare once they have no fever or open blisters, even if they still have rash. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a minor illness and usually only lasts for a few days. Complete resolution is usually expected in 7 days. If symptoms do not clear up within a week, contact your doctor.
While hand-foot-and-mouth disease is not treatable with antibiotics, there are a few things you can do to help make this experience a little less painful for yourself or your child. The most serious complication with hand-foot-and-mouth disease is dehydration, especially when the sick child has a lot of sores in their mouth.
Be sure to:
- Keep fluid intake high. Low food intake is fine but offer fluid every 1-2 hour(s).
- Electrolyte fluid such as Pedialyte is great to maintain hydration & electrolyte need. Sometimes fluid in the form of popsicle is better tolerated by those with significant mouth sores.
- Pain can be managed with over the counter pain medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin). Numbing gel is not recommended in children.
If you are caring for a sick infant or toddler, keep an eye on their wet diapers. You should see at least one wet diaper every 8 hours. Older children should urinate at least once every 12 hours. This is a way to assess if they have enough fluids. Contact your provider if they make less than this frequency of urination.
For more information on how you can protect your child from dehydration: bannerhealth.com/healthcareblog/articles/2014/may/3-tips-to-ensure-your-toddler-doesnt-dehydrate
Physician: Nurul Hariadi, MD, specializes in pediatric infectious diseases at Banner Health Center in Maricopa, Arizona