What Exactly is Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?


You may be wondering why there’s an article on Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) on The Woman’s Clinic blog. But, at The Woman’s Clinic, we strive to offer education to our patients on a variety of topics. Many of our patients will experience HFMD in their homes and might be surprised to learn that adults can catch this illness from their children! It’s important to know what to look for and how to keep yourself healthy while you are caring for your children.

It might start off innocently in your child – a sore throat, feeling under the weather, or a mild fever. You can offer your child some pain reliever, rest, and lots of fluids to make sure they feel better. The next day, you might start to notice small red bumps around your child’s hand, feet or mouth. If you see those bumps start to develop, it is likely to be more than just a cold. It’s well known that when children start school or daycare, they’re more prone to bringing germs home, including illnesses that are easily spread.

What is HFMD?

HFMD is a virus that is caused by the Coxsackie A16 virus or the enterovirus 71, which most commonly affects children under age 10. In addition to the tell tale red bumps on the hands, feet and mouth, small red bumps may also appear on the legs, buttocks and genitals. The spots often resemble chicken pox, although they are not itchy.

HFMD spreads easily, which is why it’s not uncommon to see outbreaks in school and daycare environments. It has a 3-5 day incubation period, which means that, unfortunately, an infected patient could spread it to someone else without even realizing that they’re sick. Although it’s most common amongst children, adults can catch it too.

Someone in my home has HFMD, what now?

HFMD is a virus, which means there is no medical cure for it. Most doctors can prescribe a pain reliever or a fever reducer to both children and adults that can take away some of the pain and discomfort. Even though it’s not treatable, it is important to monitor the illness and care for the rest of your body so that you can heal. If an affected child is breastfeeding, it’s good to keep that up to offer both comfort and nutrition. Make sure to stay hydrated and eat what you can, which may be difficult due to the sores in the mouth. Pregnant women and their babies do not seem to be at a higher risk for HFMD, although if you are affected close to your delivery date, it’s important to let your doctor know since there is a higher risk of passing it along once the baby is born. In addition to taking care of yourself and your children, make sure to keep the house clean and sanitized, wash bedding frequently, do not share cups or utensils and stay home until the virus has run its course.

Although uncomfortable for both children and adults, HFMD is usually not serious. Fever and spots typically clear up within a few days, and the mouth ulcers should go away within a week.

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