This week, we had the pleasure of having Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease hit our home. It has been going around my son’s daycare despite their constant cleaning, sterilizing, and disinfecting. I have been hearing more and more about this disease recently, but didn’t really know much about it until now. After doing some research online and speaking with my son’s pediatrician, I learned so much about this disease that I wish I would have known before my son got it.
1. What is it?
I had heard others talk about it, but never really knew what it was. hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a viral illness that most commonly affects infants and children ages 5 or younger. The disease is most commonly caused by a virus called coxsackievirus A16.
2. How long it takes for symptoms to show?
From the time the child is exposed to the disease, it takes 3-6 days for the initial symptoms to show up. This is called the incubation period.
3. The LAST symptom is the rash…and it’s not just on the hands, feet, and mouth
Even though the disease is most clearly identifiable by the rash and blisters, those are usually the LAST symptom to show up. The first is typically a fever. My son was exposed to the virus on Friday (this was the only day he went last week). On Monday morning, he woke up with a fever. He was also lethargic and had a poor appetite, which are also initial symptoms. He wasn’t drinking much, which I later learned was because his throat hurt. At the time, we thought it was teething. On Tuesday, he had no fever, so we sent him back to daycare. Wednesday afternoon, daycare called when they noticed the rashes and blisters showing up. A trip to the doctor confirmed that it was hand-foot-and-mouth disease. The rashes and blisters don’t just show up on the hands, feet, and mouth though. They are all over my son’s legs, arms, and bum as well.
4. How it is spread?
It is pretty much spread through any fluid coming out of your child: saliva, poop, coughing, sneezing, fluid from open blisters, etc. They best means of avoiding infection is constant hand washing and disinfecting.
5. There isn’t really a treatment
There isn’t any medicine to speed up the recovery process. The only thing you can really do is give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with the fever, avoid foods that will irritate the blisters in the mouth, and offer plenty of fluids (especially cold ones) to your child.
6. You and your kid will be quarantined for DAYS
Unfortunately, this is not an illness your child will get over overnight. It is going to take several days for the blisters to heal. If your child is in daycare or school, you are going to have to keep him home for several days until it has cleared up. This is a challenge if you are a working parent, and even more so if you have multiple children. Try your best to keep your child away from other children.
7. Hand washing
Constant hand washing and sanitizing, especially after diaper changes, becomes even more important. It helps the virus from spreading around the house even more, and from contracting it yourself.
8. Keep an eye out for dehydration
One of the more important things to watch for when your child has hand-foot-and-mouth disease is for signs of dehydration. Because of the sore throat, many children do not take in enough fluids. We were lucky that after Monday, our son has been eating and drinking normally.
9. Adults CAN catch it
Even though hand-foot-and-mouth disease is most common in young children, adults CAN contract it as well. Just ask my husband. The symptoms can be similar. My husband had the fever, decreased appetite, and sore throat. He thought he was getting strep until he noticed the blisters in his mouth. Our pediatrician has said that in adults it most often looks like cold sores instead of the rash and blisters all over, and that was what happened in my husband’s case.
10. This is one time it is OK not to share
When your child has the virus, it is TOTALLY OK for them not to share. In fact, it is encouraged. They shouldn’t share toys or, unfortunately, kisses. Be prepared to disinfect and sterilize EVERYTHING once those blisters have scabbed over and healed.
It has been a stressful, yet educational week in our household. I hope you don’t have to battle this virus, but in case you do, here are some additional resources with helpful information: