It’s A Handful: How To Keep Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) Under Control
Anyone with young children at home, especially if they send their kids to daycare, has likely heard of the recent outbreak of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) that we are seeing in the community.
What Is HFMD?
HFMD is a common illness that affects children, most commonly those under the age of five. It is caused by a virus that typically brings on outbreaks during summer and fall. Other areas of the country are also reporting many cases of children with HFMD.
Symptoms Of HFMD
- Decreased appetite
- Sore throat
The rash that accompanies this viral infection is characteristic for causing blister-like lesions on the hands, feet, and the diaper region. Children also commonly get ulcerations inside the mouth. The skin and mouth lesions are painful, and it is very common for children’s appetite to be decreased due to the discomfort in their mouth when they eat.
What is unusual this year is the timing of the illness, as it doesn’t typically occur during the spring months. Also, the children we have been seeing seem to have more severe symptoms and higher fevers than we usually see. (This is also what is being reported in other areas of the country.)
What To Do If Your Child Has HFMD?
Once a susceptible person has been exposed, symptoms will usually develop in 3-7 days, and the illness itself lasts around 5-7 days on average. No special tests are needed to make the diagnosis; it is usually apparent based on the history and findings on your child’s exam. Because HFMD is caused by a virus, this is not an illness that antibiotics will treat. Treatment is supportive and includes acetaminophen or ibuprofen (for kids older than 6 months). Sometimes special mouth rinses can be given for affected children, as well.
One of the biggest complications we see with HFMD is dehydration because children will not want to eat or drink due to the painful sores in their mouth. It is very important to give plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration.
How To Keep HFMD Away
When it comes to HFMD, prevention is the best thing. The infection is spread through body fluids – especially saliva, nasal secretions, and stools – so make sure everyone is practicing good hand hygiene. If you have any concerns about your child, or if his or her illness seems to be getting worse, make sure to call your doctor to discuss it further.