Everything You Should Know About Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a contagious, viral infection that often spreads among young children in schools and day care facilities. While anyone of any age can get it, it most commonly affects children age 5 and younger.

The good news is that it’s not typically a serious condition. However, it can be uncomfortable. The medical team at Wasatch Peak Family Practice in Layton, Utah, shares what you need to know about this common condition so you can protect your family from developing it or make them feel better if they get it.

What is hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease, also called HFMD, is an infection caused by a virus in the enterovirus family. It spreads quickly among those in close contact, as with children on a playground or in a classroom. Symptoms include fever, mouth sores, and a rash on the feet and hands. Most children develop symptoms a few days after they’re exposed to the virus. 

While symptoms tend to be mild, your child can feel unwell, have trouble swallowing, and not be interested in eating or drinking. The skin rashes, often found on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands, can turn into red, painful blisters resulting in scabs. Little red dots may also appear on the thighs and buttocks. In some cases, sores can develop inside the mouth and in the back of the throat. 

How can you prevent HFMD?

HFMD is spread through saliva, mucus from the nose, feces, or fluid from the blisters. Children pass it to others when an infected child’s droplets spread to nearby children through talking, coughing, or sneezing. It can also spread when an infected child contaminates a toy or other object and other children touch it after them.

The best way to prevent catching it or spreading it is to teach your child to wash their hands frequently, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating or preparing food, and after changing a diaper. You also want to get them in the habit of covering their mouth with the crook of their elbow when they sneeze or cough. You can help keep your family healthy by cleaning and disinfecting commonly used toys and items.

How to treat hand, foot, and mouth disease

There is no vaccine to protect against HFMD or medicine that helps the disease go away more quickly. The virus usually runs its course in seven to 10 days. In the meantime, you can help your child feel less uncomfortable by giving them over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol™) or ibuprofen (Advil™) for pain and fever. 

Cold foods such as ice pops, ice cream, or smoothies can help soothe a sore throat. Keep blisters dry and clean, and dab broken ones with antibiotic ointment. It’s also important to try to get your children to drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration. 

If you think your child has hand, foot, and mouth disease, call Wasatch Peak Family Practice for a diagnosis and treatment advice. You can also make an appointment online through this website. 

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