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Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease: What to Know

Posted on Oct 17, 2017

Dr. Rachel Dawkins

Recently, pediatric offices and emergency rooms have seen an increase in the number of cases of Hand Foot and Mouth disease coming through the doors. Rachel Dawkins, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital explains this disease.

What is hand foot and mouth disease and who gets it?

Hand foot and mouth disease is a viral infection usually seen in babies and school-age children under 10. But adults can get this too. It’s caused by a virus called coxsackievirus. Kids with hand, foot and mouth disease typically get a fever plus sores in the mouth and throat. They also can get blister-like lesions on the hands, soles of the feet and in the diaper area. The spots in the mouth can be very painful and make swallowing difficult.

How does hand, foot and mouth disease spread?

It’s spread by body fluids such as mucus, saliva or contact with fluid from one of the blisters. Kids (and adults) are contagious in the first week of their illness mostly. We often see hand, foot and mouth spread quickly through places like daycare centers. We are seeing an uptick of cases right now because it’s early in the school year.

How is hand, foot and mouth disease treated?

The virus infection itself is not treated and usually goes away in a few days to a week. But we can treat symptoms such as pain with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Our main concern is dehydration since the mouth sores can make it painful to swallow. So if your child has hand, foot and mouth disease and is not peeing, it’s important to call your pediatrician. Dehydration is the most common cause of hospitalization in kids with hand, foot and mouth disease. And don’t worry, the rash gets better on its own and doesn’t need any creams or ointments.

Can hand foot and mouth disease be prevented?

Yes. Good hand washing can prevent the spread of hand, foot and mouth disease. If your child has hand, foot and mouth disease keep him or her away from other people during the first week of illness. This includes staying out of schools and daycares for at least the first few days of the illness.

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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