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Sep 26 2016
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease: What Parents Need to Know

We’re headed toward cold and flu season but during this time of year there’s another virus that you need to look out for—especially if you have young children.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a common viral illness that is seen most often during the summer and fall. It is caused by the Coxsackie virus and has no relation to hoof and mouth disease. It usually affects children from 6 months to 4 years of age, but may affect older children, teens and adults.  

The virus can spread quickly among children at schools, daycares, and other group activities. The most common symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease are small ulcers in the mouth, which can be quite painful. There can also be small water blisters that look like little white pimples or red spots on the palms and soles as well as on the webs between the fingers and toes. About a third of the time there may also be small spots on the buttocks. Children usually have associated fever and do not feel well. Discomfort and fever typically resolve by day 4 and mouth ulcers are gone by day 7, however the rash may last 10 days.  

Since HFMD is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not helpful. Treatment of symptoms includes acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever or discomfort. I usually recommend parents to give their child a soft diet, clear liquids and cold drinks. A cool and creamy treat like a Popsicle or sherbet may be better tolerated and prevent dehydration.  

HFMD is very contagious but not serious. The incubation period after coming into contact with the virus is 3-6 days. The virus is spread by nasal secretions, saliva, fluid from blisters and stool. It is very difficult to prevent the spread of the infection but good hand washing can be helpful, particularly after diaper changes. Since the illness is so contagious, and is self-limited, children do not need to be isolated and can return to daycare or school when the fever is gone and they are drinking well. 

If your child is running around and has normal activity level, then I wouldn't be too concerned. The most important thing is to make sure your child is well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Kids usually recover within a few days.

Please contact your pediatrician if your child is hard to awaken, confused, has not urinated for more than 8 hours or seems very sick, or you are worried and think your child needs to be seen.  

So what can you do to prevent HFMD? Good hand washing is key to avoiding the disease so it’s important to teach your kids how to properly wash their hands. I hopes this gives you information to help identify and prevent HFMD. 

As always, if you have any concerns about your child’s health, call your pediatrician.

Barbara Strand, MD, is a pediatrician at HFM Pediatrics and will start seeing patients in October. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Strand, call (920) 320-4300. 


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