You MAY have heard of it and it’s making its rounds right about now. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is caused most commonly by the Coxsackie A Virus type 16. It tends to rear its ugly head in the fall. It causes painful ulcers in the mouth (especially in the back near your tonsils) and similar lesions on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, and on occasion the buttocks or groin area. This infection typically impacts small children and kids less than 10 years old but infrequently, depending on which strain of the virus it is, adults can suffer, too. Most cases are short lived but because its comes from the same family of viruses as polio, then on rare occasion weakness and muscle soreness can occur with some of the less common Coxsackie Virus strains.
The illness has an incubation period of about a week (which means you’ve been hosting this unwelcomed guest for about a week before you feel any symptoms). It typically involves a low grade fever for 1 – 2 days, painful ulcers in the mouth for 3 – 5 days, and a distinctive rash for up to 7-10 days. The rash does NOT itch. This can help you distinguish it from chicken pox. You can shed the virus in your stool for WEEKS after the illness resolves so once again say it with me… WASH. YOUR. HANDS! You share the joy through the fecal-oral route so good hand washing after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper is paramount. You can also pass the infection on by contact with the skin lesions or oral secretions.
In general it tends to look a lot worse than it is. However, in small children with the painful ulcers in their mouths, refusal to eat and drink can cause a risk of dehydration which is particularly dangerous in the very young and old. For this reason staying hydrated is important. Stay clear of spicy or salty foods as that may exacerbate the pain. Also, stick with soft and/or cool foods (mashed potatoes, popsicles, etc) for the same reason. If need be, use fever and pain reducers to keep younger kiddos more comfortable until this passes. Epsom Salt baths can help reduce the discomfort of general aches and pains and can help the little ones relax and get some sleep at night and bring down their temperature a bit. The good news is this too, shall pass. Time and TLC will take care of it.
When in doubt, contact your Pediatrician’s advice line for guidance on what to do and when and if you should bring your child in for an evaluation. In the meantime give comfort care, probiotics to gird up the immune system, and rest, wash those hands, and wipe down those toys and surfaces to try to keep the infection form spreading!
Happy Healthy Living!
Until next time…
Take Home Tidbits
- Hand Foot and Mouth Disease is common in the spring and fall seasons.
- Stay away from spicy, salt or hard foods as the mouth sores are quite painful
- It is contagious via stool, oral secretions, and skin lesions
- The rash doesn’t itch which can help you distinguish it from chicken pox
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