Hand, foot and mouth disease is a contagious viral disease that is most often seen in preschool age children. It is caused by most commonly by coxsakievirus A16 and enterovirus, however other viruses have also been associated with outbreaks. There is usually about a 3 day period of time when kids will have a low grade fever, be a little irritable, and have a sore throat. It can start off like any other virus. However, then a rash breaks out as small painful vesicles that break open quickly in the mouth and make it uncomfortable to eat and often kids will start drooling. The hands and feet, especially on the sides of the fingers will break out in small vesicles with a pink halo around them. About half the cases will also have lesions on the buttocks. No treatment is necessarily required as it tends to last about a week before resolving.
This is a communicable disease which means it spreads in one of four ways:- skin to skin contact- saliva (sharing drinks for example)- airborne (through coughs or sneezes)- virus is shed in feces so washing hands after going to the restroom is also important to reduce spread.
It is thought that there may be a relationship between hand, foot and mouth and the weather. The summer seems to be associated with more outbreaks. Across the world there has been a rising incidence of hand, foot and mouth- especially in Asia. It is unclear why, however some theories suggest climate change may be partially to blame.
There is no specific treatment for this viral illness. Because of the pain associated with it- especially with the mouth lesions, I recommend over the counter pain relievers so much as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. It helps to have kids suck on cold treats like popsicles. Eating softer foods and less acidic foods will also be less likely to irritate the lesions while trying to eat!
Although kids are most contagious for the first week, the virus can still be shed in their saliva and feces for weeks after. Proper hygiene with hand washing, covering the mouth with coughing, proper disposal of tissues after wiping a runny nose, avoiding sharing drinks is important! Schools have policies on when kids can return. Usually the kids need to be fever free and rash free before returning.
Avoid sharing drinks, wash hands routinely, wiping noses on tissues and not sleeves:))