These Little Piggies: Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

These Little Piggies: Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

hfmdHand, foot, and mouth disease (or HFMD) is a common illness seen this time of year. Outbreaks usually peak in the late summer and fall, though it may strike at any time of the year. Children and adults of any age can be affected, but the symptoms tend to be more severe for infants and toddlers. This year there have been multiple outbreaks across the country, including on college campuses last week in Florida. Luckily, there are some things you can do to try to protect yourself and your children.

Usually children present with fever in the beginning of the illness, as well as fatigue or not feeling well. They can complain of sore throat, and within a few days develop blisters and a rash. Usually the blisters are in the throat and mouth, and these can turn into ulcers and be painful. Children often develop a rash, typically starting on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, as well as groin and buttock area. Adults and older children may have very mild cases and not even realize they have the infection.

What Is HFMD?

HFMD is a viral illness that can be caused by several different viruses in the enterovirus group. These viruses can cause a wide variety of symptoms, from the common cold to meningitis. HFMD is luckily one of the less severe types of disease that these viruses can cause. The virus can be spread by many ways, and therefore can affect many people in a family, daycare, or school quickly. Droplets that are airborne (like from coughing and sneezing) can contain the virus of an affected person. It can also be transmitted by touching surfaces that came in contact with the droplets, such as a doorknob, faucet handle, or shopping cart. The virus can also be transmitted the fecal-oral route, which describes how germs are transmitted when there is poor hand washing after using the bathroom. Like many other viruses, a child is most contagious while they are sick in the first week of the illness. The virus can be spread from saliva, mucus, fluid from the blisters, and feces. Unfortunately, the virus can still be found in those body fluids for days after they are feeling better, and that’s why the illness can spread so often through a daycare or school.

How Is It Diagnosed?

HFMD is very common, and most pediatricians can diagnose the illness from examining the child in the office. Further testing to identify the virus is usually not needed unless the child is severely ill and hospitalized.

Remember, HFMD is not related to hoof-and-mouth disease, which is a disease seen in cattle and a variety of livestock, including pigs and sheep. HFMD is not a disease you can transmit to or catch from your pets or other animals.

There are no medications to help cure HMFD, so children need supportive care (such as help with pain and fever control) until they clear the viral infection themselves. In young children, developing dehydration can be a concern, as the sore throat and mouth keep children from eating and drinking well. If your child gets sick, your best bets include encouraging fluids, having your child get rest, and doing lots of hand washing to prevent spread of the illness.

For more information on the web, visit cdc.gov or healthychildren.org. If you have questions or would like to discuss any concerns you have regarding HFMD, you can schedule an appointment with me, Dr. Kathryn Mandal, by calling 817-617-8600 or scheduling online at continuumtx.com.

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