Hand, foot and mouth disease, widely known as HMFD, is a mild but highly contagious viral infection that is common in young children, especially in ages 5 and under — but anyone can get it. HFMD is most likely to occur in summer and fall months. Symptoms usually go away without treatment within several days.
Signs and Symptoms
HMFD can cause the following symptoms:
- Painful, red blisters inside the mouth, specifically on the tongue, gums and inside of cheeks
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- A red rash on hands and soles of the feet, diaper area or any other area of the body
How HFMD is spread
HFMD is easily spread through person-to-person contact. In addition, after a child with HFMD sneezes or coughs, other kids can catch the airborne virus. A child playing with toys or objects that have come in contact with an infected person can also get the virus.
You or your child could also contract HFMD through feces or fluid from blisters. For this reason, it’s common for kids at daycare to get this illness because of the frequent diaper changes and potty training going on.
In most cases, symptoms will go away within seven to 10 days. There is no medication or antibiotic that will cure HFMD. However you can try these home remedies to help with your child’s discomfort:
- Ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve discomfort.
- Topical ointments, such as zinc oxide or petroleum jelly, to protect and heal blisters.
- Cold drinks, ice or frozen fruit popsicles to soothe mouth and throat. Do not give your child hot drinks or acidic foods as they will make the pain worse.
- Plenty of fluids to keep your child from getting dehydrated.
You can do a number of things to prevent the spread of HFMD, including:
- Regular hand washing. Wash your hands frequently, especially after changing a diaper or using the bathroom.
- Cleaning. Use soap and water to disinfect children’s toys, baby pacifiers, food areas, etc. Wash your child’s clothing and bedding.
- Teaching good hygiene. Discourage kids from putting their fingers in their mouths and encourage handwashing.
- Keeping your child home from daycare or school. Usually children are no longer contagious when their fever is gone and their blisters or open wounds are completely healed.
When to see a doctor
In most cases, HFMD is a minor illness that will take a few days to a week to get better. If your child’s signs and symptoms worsen or their sore throat prevents them from swallowing fluids or they have less urine than usual in a day, contact your pediatrician. Also call your doctor if your child’s fever lasts more than three days or areas around the sores look infected.
Learn more about Cheryl Cameron, MD.