Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a contagious illness caused by a virus. A few different types of viruses can cause this disease, but the predominant virus tends to be the Coxsackie A-16 virus and other enteroviruses. The initial signs of infection are a mild fever, sore throat, and loss of appetite. One or two days after the initial fever, a person may start to see a blistering rash develop on the hands and feet. The rash can spread to the legs, buttocks, and arms in some cases. HFMD is also usually associated with painful mouth sores on the inside of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and on the tongue. Any child can develop every symptom of HFMD, but most only develop a few. Usually, symptoms will resolve after 7-10 days.
Who does Hand Foot and Mouth Disease Affect, and How is it Spread?
“HFMD usually only affects children younger than ten years of age. Adults can carry the virus without symptoms and transmit it to a child. Therefore, HFMD is commonly seen in childcare centers. It spreads easily from close person to person contact, nasal secretions, saliva, fluid from blisters, stool, and respiratory droplets sprayed into the air after coughing or sneezing. HFMD can be contacted by touching an object that has been contaminated with the virus.
How Long is a Person or Child Contagious? Hand Foot and Mouth Disease is contagious during the incubation period or about 3-6 days before the symptoms present. It is difficult to isolate the disease because of this, and thus the reason it spreads so freely in childcare centers. Most care centers will send out a notice of the exposure date, and you will need to monitor your child for any symptoms. If a child does become infected with HFMD, they typically need to stay home until they have not had a fever for 24 hours and do not have any active or weeping blisters.
Precautions Listed below are a few things that can reduce the risk of infection of HFMD
Teach good hygiene practices by encouraging children to not put their hands in their mouth, wash hands prior to eating, using the bathroom, and after coughing or sneezing. It is also important to teach children to cover their coughs and sneezes.
Clean communal areas with disinfectants regularly including toys and surfaces as the virus can survive for days on these areas.
Isolate individuals infected with HFMD until fever has subsided for 24 hours and the person does not have any active blisters. Flat areas of rash that are not weeping or open are no longer contagious.
Treatment Although Hand Foot and Mouth Disease is not an illness we would want any little one to experience, the symptoms tend to be relatively minor. Encourage fluids to prevent dehydration and moisturize regularly. Stay home from work or keep your child at home if you suspect they may have HFMD. Contact your doctor if symptoms worsen after the first initial onset, but most of the time this can be treated at home. A topical steroid such as hydrocortisone OTC or prescription can help relieve some of the itching from the rash and make the child more comfortable. It is also acceptable to give Tylenol or ibuprofen for any fever symptoms if the child is old enough. Once a child has been exposed to HFMD, their immune system will produce antibodies and they usually do not develop the disease again.