Hand, foot, and mouth disease (or HFMD) is an unpleasant condition that will make your small child feel ill for around five days. It’s a common childhood illness that is usually not serious and does not typically lead to serious complications. The infection – usually caused by the coxsackie virus, incubates in your child for 3-5 days. Like many other viruses, the symptoms tend to start with a decreased appetite. You may first notice other symptoms like fever, sore throat, fatigue, and malaise. Then, you’ll notice the hallmark rash – sores that show up in your child’s mouth, on their hands and on their feet.
Your child is most likely to get HFMD if they’re under the age of five, but it can happen later.
It is very contagious, so consider this if you have other children at home. Children can get the disease through playing together, sharing toys, sharing cups, or putting their hands in their mouths. In other words, it’s part of what comes with being a toddler or preschooler.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is readily identifiable by its blistering rash, though symptoms will vary from child to child. The fever typically breaks before the rash starts, but they can sometimes coincide. While your child has sores in his or her mouth, you may notice that they’re not eating and drinking well. Your doctor may do a thorough oral examination to look for lesions on the cheeks or the back of the throat.
The rash on the hands and feet, although unpleasant-looking, does not usually itch. The best course of action for the body rash is to wait for it to subside. On the other hand, mouth sores can be painful, and hinder your child’s ability to eat or drink normally. Offer an over-the-counter pain reliever like Tylenol or Motrin to help treat the discomfort associated with these ulcers. Avoid foods that make the pain worse, like citrus fruit, salt, or vinegar-based foods.
Some parents call our office because they’re worried about their child becoming dehydrated. While severe dehydration following coxsackie is rare, it’s always a good idea to be vigilant. Call our office if you notice signs of dehydration, like significantly decreased urine output (less than six wet diapers per day), dry or cracked lips, or lethargy. It’s also a good idea to call our office and set up an appointment if your child is less than three months old.