May 092012

Last week  on Thursday my children were exposed to Hand Foot and Mouth disease because of an outbreak in a town nearby. I immediately knew that I should prepare for a warzone around here. Ever seen seven kids sick at the same time? And Itching?

For those that don’t know Hand Foot and Mouth disease is a viral infection caused by the Enterovirus group of viruses. The infection sets up in the intestines causing fever, flue like symptoms and aches and pain. Your child will also develop a rash (in varying degrees of severity) on the hands, feet and legs as well as, around and inside the mouth. Children who are exposed to Hand Foot and Mouth disease may develop symptoms between 3 and 7 days after exposure. A child that contracts the infection can be contagious for up to 14 days (mucous secretions, saliva, etc.) and they will carry the virus in their stool for a month after infection.

How Do You Treat Hand Foot And Mouth Disease?

There is no treatment to cure Hand Foot and Mouth disease, we can only treat the symptoms. To treat your child you’ll need Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Motrin), Hydrocotisone cream (for the rash), Antihistamine (helpful to calm itching, and help children sleep) Calamine lotion (also for the rash) and an oral Lidocaine solution (again, for  the rash.)

You’ll want to provide as many liquids as you can to keep your child hydrated. I’ve found that Vitamin C popsicles work, and made up dozens as soon as I knew we’d been exposed. You can make your own popsicles at home by following this recipe.  I use the left over fruit pureed and mixed into Jello for another hard to resist treat. (If your child is vomiting due to the fever you can follow my Vomiting in Children guide. )

Juice (apple, orange, grape) is great if you can get your child to drink it, but be careful if a rash develops in the diaper area… juice and sugar can make that rash much worse. Stock up on soft foods, especially if you have several kids, anything in the yogurt family will be easy to eat and promote healthy bacteria in the body.

The rash that develops with Hand Foot and Mouth Disease can be quite bad. The medicines I listed will help, but when you’ve got itchy children it seems like nothing can work fast enough. I treat the rash like I would Chickenpox or Poison Oak– oatmeal baths, light clothing (heat irritates a rash) and topical ointments. You may have to wait until toddlers or infants are asleep to apply anything.

How Do You  Prevent The Spread of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease?

Prevention is worth a pound of cure, but in this case you probably won’t know you’ve been exposed until its too late. The first symptom to show in HFMD is a low-grade fever, which can,  and IS often mistaken for teething, if noticed at all. Once the rash shows up your child has already been contagious for several days. The virus is spread through saliva, respiratory secretions, fluid in the blisters and stool.

Clean everything. Wash your hands often.  Limit contact, unless your like me and can’t help it. Many websites will tell you that people over age 10 don’t normally contract HFMD and this is true, ONLY– in that they are not where the virus originates from. The CDC says that 24% of the cases reported of HFMD are people over the age of 18– so parents snuggling their baby through a fever are not immune. HFMD is not a reportable virus, so this number is limited. Prepare to get the virus, and be thankful if you don’t!

How Long Does HFMD Last?

Your child may suffer with HFMD from 7 to 14 days. Normally, once the fever has subsided the rash begins. Ember’s rash started on the second day of the fever and she is still having fever, so like all rules this one can be broken. You can limit the duration of the rash by using products that dry it up and keeping the child from scratching. It is unclear whether or not scratching spreads the rash, but it can cause a secondary infection to an already compromised immune system.

I know that none of this news is good. I wish for you, as well as myself, that it was better news and there was a miracle cure for Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, but there isn’t. You can limit the spread of HFMD by calling friends and family members and letting them know to stay away. (for at least 3 weeks) You never know when you might spread this virus to someone who’s immune system can’t fight it off. Good luck with treatment and I hope your little ones feel better soon!


  45 Responses to “Hand Foot and Mouth Disease”

  1. Thank you so much for the info. It is very helpful considering the Dr.s dont tell u about any itch cream or antihistimine. I have twins and I have had a horrible time with them itching and sleeping. HFMD is awful. I definetaly am ready to get it out of my household. Once again thank you for the advice it was very helpful in my situation.

    • Maranda,
      I’m glad the information helped, but sorry your little ones have HFMD. I hope they feel better soon!

      • Hello and thank you for the advice im only 14 and my little nephews got hand food and mouth disease from a daycare center and unlucky for me the babysitter they passed it on to me. your advice helped a lot so once again thank you.

        • Jennifer,
          I am so sorry that you contracted HFMD. It really is a terrible communicable disease. I am so glad my advice helped you and that you’re on the road to recovery. Feel better sweetie and remember, hand foot and mouth disease is a lot like chicken pox– if you get it once, the likeliness that you’ll ever get it again is very slim. Hugs.

  2. Thank you for this. I have heard to or three different things from different nurses and Dr’s. One told me they were most contagious during the fever part. Others said once they clear up. I am heading to the store tonight to get a lot of things off your list. My three year old came down with it. First they said strep since she had the white pockets in her mouth until the blisters showed up on her hands, thighs, top of her feet, knees, and elbows today. She is good right now. Not itching or in pain. Not going to chance it though. Going to stock up so thanks for the great advice!!!!!

    • Nicole I am so sorry that your child contracted HFMD. HFMD is a very frustrating childhood illness, because we can only treat the symptoms which are usually very severe. I hope your child feels better soon! Hang in there.

  3. Good info to know. I’m searching for answers to HFMD because my three sons all got it from each other. The three year old probably got it from visiting his cousin who had it about four weeks earlier. My wife and I didn’t think any of them would be infected but I guess the virus must still be around the house on toys, furnitures, and etc. He’s better now but his seven old brother and two year old brother are just about getting over it.

  4. Can my 22 month old son go swimming when he has hmfd? He had his fever about 6 days ago and feels fine, his body is covered with blisters but doesn’t find the need to itch

    • David,
      Yes, he can go swimming. Pool shock or a little extra chlorine will obliterate the virus. We took ours swimming everyday they felt up to it because the cool water seemed to cheer them up.

  5. I actually got HFMD from my boyfriend, he said he got it from his sister. I don’t know if the severity varies from person to person, because he acts like it isn’t that bad and it’ll go away soon. He only had the rash on his fingers and his feet. I had a fever for two days and then the blistery rash started spreading all over…I have it al over my mouth, chin, fingers, palms, feet, and legs. I’ve never had pain this bad before, and it itches…can barely move my feet or hands. The doctor just said it’ll go away on it’s own…they really need a vaccine for this or something!

    • Victoria,
      I am sorry to hear that you also contracted HFMD. It will go away on its own, but the symptoms are horrible. The tips I mentioned here helped my kids and many others. I hope you feel better soon!

  6. Im 16 an i have bumps on my hands and my back and legs &itch like crazy… i dont know excactly what i have =( please help.. The bumps
    On my hands just started today im school.. im confused

    • Nanci,
      You could have Hand Foot and Mouth disease, you also may have poison oak, ivy or some other type of rash. All rashes can be treated with the steps I described. You should see your doctor to be sure what you have. The good news is most types of rashes don’t last long. Hugs and Good Luck!

  7. Hi

    My 3 yr old son has hfmd…. he took a typhoId InjectIon 3 days back.
    He developed light fever and we thought it was due to the vaccination.
    But next day he started saying the food is too spicy and tht night
    He kept asking to rub his foot as it is itchy…. next morning we noticed
    Red dots on his soles and we took him to the doc, and she gave
    A cream to be applied if the spot becomes large(and it has) and
    It has spread to almost all parts of his body except his stomach, chest, and back
    He has small pimple like semi boils in his feet, ankle upto his thighs
    And on his buttocks on his elbows and also noTed few behind his ears…..
    We are making him take bath twice and then applying calamine lotion
    But he complains it’s very itchy. We are gIvIng hydroxyzIne hydrchlorIde
    Syrup to lessen Itchyness (doc prescrIptIon)..last night no one slept…. will it
    Spread more…. do we need to go to hospital again…. and my wife
    Is 9 months pregnant…. what to do….

    • Ram,
      I am so sorry to hear about your son. HFMD can be very bad. When Ember had it no one slept, we were round the clock trying to make her as comfortable as possible. The good news is that the rash stops spreading around day 4 or 5. I should stress it stops spreading ON the person who has it. The virus can be spread for up to one month after contraction. Unfortunately, other than the steps I have listed there isn’t much you can do for the current child but wait it out. Have you tried the Vitamin C Popsicle tutorial? It seems to make them feel a bit better, and helps with sores in the mouth and throat that you may not see.

      Its very important that you get the house sterilized, before your new baby is born. I would start with water and rubbing alcohol mixed in a spray solution. (1 part rubbing alcohol 3 parts water) Clean all the hard surfaces, and everything within your 3 year olds reach. I would also let the OBGYN know that at least one of you does have a confirmed case of HFMD. Your wife could catch it, its a risk for all adults, but those with depressed immune systems, such as what happens during pregnancy makes it more likely. Please Please let the OBGYN know of your child’s condition. HFMD is a very contagious and could infect the new baby. Good Luck and please let me know how it goes!

      • Thanks a lot for the quick reply, i feel a lot better.
        Hopefully it starts subsiding soon and thanks a lot for the cleanIng tIp & advice,
        Will surely update

        • Ram,
          Its absolutely no problem! I only hope that I can help other parents that children with HFMD as well. It really is a horrible time for the little ones, and the parents who have to watch it as well. HFMD is not a reportable illness, so it isn’t tracked by the health departments but I regularly get visitors from several states looking for information. Now that school has started back the risk of contracting HFMD for others will be higher. Like chicken pox children tend to get it only once, never coming in contact with a “different” strain of the virus. Having HFMD ONCE is enough for any child. Take care of yourselves and congrats on the future addition to your family!

  8. My son has HFMD…. HE’S ONLY ONE AND I’M HAVING A VERY ROUGH TIME WITH IT. HE GETS ON SLEEP AT NIGHT AND cry so bad. The motrin. Helps only for a hour or so. Is there any other meds that I can you on the mouth?

    • You can ask your pediatrician for a Novocaine/Lidocaine mouth rinse, that will help for the sores in the mouth. Use the rinse on a cotton swab to gently apply to the blisters. I hope your little one feels better soon!

  9. Hi-
    All of my kids contracted this virus. They are grade school and older. I filled sandwich zip lock bags 1/3 – 1/2 full with water, sealed and froze flat. Then next day these really helped to soothe itchy sore feet (with towels and plastic bag liner underneath. Don’t have kids place skin directly on ice). Or just buy a bunch of ice packs, but make sure to disinfect before refreezing. Also, I read that bleach is the best to kill this virus. Bought some Clorox cleanup spray. Really annoying virus. Most advice is for kids to be fever free with dried blisters in order to return to school, but little ones are not going to keep their coughs and sneezes to themselves as older kids can.

    • Cathy,
      Thanks so much for the advice about diy frozen ice packs! I bet those were great for soothing the feet. Adding alcohol at a ratios of 2 parts water 1 part rubbing alcohol will make ice packs that are flexible. Glad to hear your kids pulled through!

  10. How long can the HFMD live on surfaces? like on toys and anything else? thanks!

    • Kayla,
      The HFMD virus can live inside the body for 30-45 days after infection. Unfortunately. I can’t find any facts for how long the virus can live on environmental services. HFMD is extremely contagious, and its generally acceptable to assume that anyone who hasn’t already had it will catch it. I waited until No one in the house was showing symptoms and then did a spring clean of the whole house.

  11. Thank you for this site! My 22 month old has it and he has been waking up & crying uncontrollably. iterax helped him sleep tonight. I hope it goes away soon:( Any more suggestions on the mouth sores? My baby lost his appetite and I’m afraid of dehydration. i think there are blisters in his mouth that makes him refuse to drink milk:(

    • Anna,
      You can ask your doctor for an oral Lidocaine solution. It instantly numbs the mouth. You may also try Orajel or the off-brand equivalent. The mouth sores are the reason I came up with the popsicles. Kids will rarely refuse one and they help boost the immune system while soothing the mouth and throat. My best wishes to you!

  12. My family had a bout with HFMD in the spring, My then 5 year old got it first, then our 12 month old, and then my wife got it. I was the fortunate one to survive without getting it. At that time our pediatrician told us about a mouth numbing agent we could use but you have to be careful not to let the kids have too much. He hated the taste, but numbed it enough that he could drink water. The pediatrician told us to only use it in the event we absolutely had to in order to keep the baby hydrated. Their concern was a lack of water.

    Fast forward 6 months. Our 6 year old had a fever last Tuesday, he stayed home from school Wednesday and we went to the doctor Thursday after allowing him to go back to school. The doctor checked him and said he has HFMD again, apparently another strain, then on Friday the now 18 month old developed symptoms. Saturday both my wife and I got it. This is awful!! none of us can sleep at night because our hands and feet hurt so bad. I read the blog and I took benedryl and need to get some soothing lotion, but even the strongest anti-itch creams won’t stop the itching. Thank you for the list of ideas and the vitamin C. Popsicle recipes. I am glad this only lasts for a time. We had to tell everyone to stay away for a while.

    • Dan,
      I am sorry to hear you are dealing with HFMD a second time. Unfortunately, children can catch a different strain of the disease. :( Telling everyone to stay away is best, for them and you. No telling what could happen if you ended up with the flu on a compromised immune system. I wish there was a miracle cure that I could recommend. So many people come to my website looking for a cure for Hand Foot and Mouth disease, but there is none. Treating the symptoms and staying as comfortable as possible during the course of treatment is the only option. Get well soon!

  13. My almost 18 month old started a bout of HFM on Friday (we think). A week ago he got a rash on his tummy and back. We thought it was from the chlorine in the pool because it looked like a regular heat rash. Raised small pinkish bumps that were starting to go away. By the next week the rash had a new look…flat spots, fairly tiny. The next day, Friday, he was sick all over the place and had a fever of 102.5. Next morning he wouldn’t eat or drink. Cried no matter what we gave him. By mid day he had sores in his mouth and by the time we got him to the doctor he had spots on his hands…bigger than the ones on his tummy and back. Now it’s all over his bum and a few on the tops of his feet and legs. The doctor checked him out and in addition to his rash and mouth sores he also had a double ear infection so they gave him liquid antibiotics and had us on watch for meninghitis…..I’ve been checking his spots obsessively. I guess I have 2 questions….does anyone know: 1) if HFM is viral can it be worsened with him having to be on antibiotics for the ear infection that is assumed to be bacterial and 2) should we all stay home from a wedding we have on Saturday….it’ll be a week and 2 days past first sign of fever?

    • Michelle,
      I am so sorry your little one has come down with HFMD. He will be contagious for up to 30 days after his fever subsides. I wouldn’t let anyone handle him who isn’t immediate family, and already exposed. The spots will also stop appearing around day 2 after the fever. Some children don’t get anymore, while others get what appears to be a second round. Antibiotics are a bit tricky in this situation. I would watch him close and see the doc if his fever becomes uncontrollable, or he becomes listless. (See the Doctor for ANYTHING you don’t deem normal, or par for the course) His immune system is already compromised by the HFMD, so antibiotics would likely make that worse. I would be very careful about getting him out especially in areas prone to pertussis outbreaks, viral meningitis, and other childhood illness. Ember had blisters for 14-16 days, in various stages of healing, after the first ones appeared. I wish you the best of luck! Please drop back by and let us know how its going.

  14. My 18 month old quadruplets just started with the rash yesterday. It has been HORRIBLE! I’ve been trying to find suggestions and came across this site. Thanks so much for the helpful information. I have a feeling this is gonna be a rough week or two.

    • Sheri,
      I am so sorry that your babies have contracted HFMD. It is terribly contagious and my site receives a lot of traffic from parents looking for information. The hardest part of HFMD is coming to terms with the fact that there is no cure for it. We can only treat the symptoms and keep the kids as comfortable as possible, letting the virus run its course.
      It will be rough going unfortunately, and our efforts never seem like they are enough when the babies are sick. Please know that we are thinking of you, and that we’ve been through it to. Feel free to ask any questions you have and I will answer as soon as possible. Be kind to yourself too! Taking care of quadruplets with hand foot and mouth disease must be horrid. Good luck!

  15. Thank you for all of your information. My 8 1/2 month old is on day two of the rash. I will be using your suggestions to take care of her, but I was wondering about returning to work on Monday. I am a high school teacher and the primary caregiver for my daughter. I’d like to go back to work as soon as possible, but I don’t want to risk spreading it. What is a safe time period for returning to work?

    • Stacey,I am so sorry your baby contracted HFMD also. It is truly horrible for the child and the parents. I hope your baby is recovering well.

  16. I know this is a painful thing for kids, I have a 2/12yr old girl who has contracted HFMD she has sores on her tongue she is taking meds that the doctor gave us. I forgot to mention my little angel has Downs will the healing time be longer?

    • Ron,
      I hope your daughter pulls through with flying colors. I don’t think Downs Syndrome will prolong her healing time, but maybe you could come back and let us know your experience, for other parents who are seeking the information. The hardest part of HFMD is keeping them comfortable, I am sure you’re doing a great job!

  17. Hi, my daughter also got this HFMD as she turned 10. And worst part is got it just in the lasr week of her school before starting on summe holidays. She is having really itchy watery blisters on her palm and feet. It’s been few sleepless nights. This is day 6 of the onset of these blisters. Everyday have to try new things to calm her itchyness, especially @ night. I find getting her to wash her hands and feet as she gets itchy helps to reduce it. Also having after sun with aloe Vera is helpful sometimes. Not giving her any sour fruits and vegies and reduce salt and sugar intake in diet is also helpful. Just waiting to get over this HFMD. Thx for your tips.

    • Sweta,
      I hope your daughter is feeling better! The traffic for parents looking for info regarding HFMD has spiked so I know lots of parents who are dealing with the same issues. Hug her, it will be over soon!

  18. hi, my brother is 13 and he has hfmd… The first 2 days, he had high fever with a few red spots on his palms and soles.. After the fever’s gone, he had ulcers in his mouth and the red spots are increasing… The thing is, the rash doesnt itch… Just a bit painful… Its been 5 days and the rash keeps spreading up to his thighs and waist.. How do i get rid of the rash?

  19. Hi my question is a little different from everyone else. I have a 9 month old who is not around other children .so i don’t believe my son has the virus, but when he recently when to the ER due to a cold that has been going around our house. The Dr said that he had it. And the only symptom he had was a small rash he has is around his mouth and we believe that’s from his passafire sucking on it when he is Drooling and a runny nose. His normal dr had just seen him two days prior and said nothing about it he has no fever no loss of apatite nothing else she claims she saw sores in his mouth but when I looked right after her I saw nothing . I’m very upset because I don’t feel he was Diagnosed Properly. What do u think?

  20. Thanks so much for your helpful tips! I took my two girls (5 yrs & 2 yrs) to a Waterpark on Friday 7/5/2012. On Sunday my 5 year old daughter complained of having a sore throat and we took her to her doctor and he prescribed antibodtics, later that day she started having a fever reaching 103 and I kept giving her Advil but her fever wouldn’t go down much, this lasted till Monday morning when she woke up saying “mommy look at all these tiny red dots on my hands and feet” I looked at them and immediately thought something was wrong! As I was changing her clothes to get her dressed to take her to the doctor I saw a bigger pimple like ulcer on her shoulder and a few smaller spots on her back. When I took her to the doctor he said that she has chickenpox he gave her some anti itch gel and an antihistamine and we came home thinking she has chickenpox. She yelled all day complaining of her itchy feet and by the end of the day she could not walk. I did research and didn’t think she really had chickenpox especially the next day when she didn’t breakout alot on her body just her hands and feet and had small red dots in the top of her mouth. So I took her to the doctor again and told him I feel as if she has hfmd not chickenpox after checking her again he confirmed it! Now it’s Thursday and my two year old has a fever with no other symptoms so I am guessing she caught it, it is the worst virus ever now I will have two girls with it so that means no sleep, I wish I could just get it for them and they not caught it at all because it seems like alot of pain but that’s not how the world works! I have been smearing calamine lotion because the doctor said it will help, but I am totally going to try the coconut oil bath today. Thanks for your help! Hopefully there will be a cure for it in the near future!

  21. I agree with the others, this site has been much more helpful than others that I’ve seen so far.

    My 2 yr old was infected with HFMD at daycare last week, and now it seems as if my 12 yr old also has it. I had previously Googled the disease when the daycare center handed out flyers to all of the families, but I just had to Google again, checking to see if older children really CAN get it, and apparently they can. Everything else that I’ve read basically says that children under 5 get it, and they leave it at that.

    My 2 yr old and 12 yr old have a lot of contact, because my 12 yr old is mentally and physically handicapped. They play a lot together. I’m just worried that my 13 yr old will also come down with it, because he’s just so overdramatic when he’s sick. He has Aspergers Syndrome, and can’t help it, but he thinks he’s going to die every time he has the sniffles.

    The next week/month is not going to be fun at my house!

  22. Hello! I know this post has been up for a while, but I just needed to commiserate with someone!! My kiddos have both come down with HFAM and we’re on day 4 now of blisters and rash. Everything else I’ve read says that there shouldn’t be itching, but my daughter is miserable and her feet are so blistered in places you can’t see the skin! She’s crazy itchy between her toes and on her palms. I was SO glad to find your advice. It validated what I decided to do for her- alternating ibprofin and tylenol, slathered her with calimine (anti-itch cream didn’t do a thing), and gave her benadryl. She’s finally resting. Her throat is hurting her terribly too and she’s still getting a fever on and off. My son’s cranky and his feet hurt when he walks, but otherwise is feeling ok. He only had a fever for one day and no sores in his mouth. The sores on his hands don’t bother him. The WORST part of all this though is that they went to Vacation Bible School on Sunday, Monday, and Tues before we knew they had it. AND my daughter (6) has been waiting ALL summer to go to day camp for the first time. Ít’s the final week of camp. She got to go for Mon and Tues and had to miss the rest of the week! Plus both kids missing the rest of VBS! And of course, all the kids we exposed to HFAM before we knew they had it!!! I’m just glad we have another 2 weeks before school starts to get over all this! :( Not the way we were hoping to spend the last of our summer vacation though! Plus we started the summer with pneumonia for both kids and me and we were housebound almost a month! Over half our summer has been spent cooped up trying to get better and not get anyone else sick! Ok, sorry for venting. Just needed a little mommy sympathy! :) Thanks!

  23. I’ve read through these comments, and I’m feeling a little better knowing we are not alone in the battle against HFMD. My 5 year old began running a fever and complaining of a tummy ache and sore throat 2 days ago. She now has the rash and weeping blisters on her arms, legs, hands, and feet. The sores are more painful on her arms and legs, but the itching on her hands and feet is unbearable. She goes into hysterical fits from the intense itching. We’re treating her with topical steroids and hydroxyzine to calm the itch and help her sleep, but it only gives a couple of hours of relief. Of the childhood illnesses (which include some pretty nasty stomach bugs and pneumonia in this house) HFMD is by far the worst we’ve encountered. I know it’s minor in comparison to other illnesses affecting families every day, but HFMD has been horrible. Nothing I have read online prepared me for this. I’m praying she gets some relief soon and no one else in our household contracts this evil little bug!

  24. 20 year old just came home from college with this! I know this is a old thread but I just wanted to let people know that even our very big kids can get this. She went to the college clinic and after 4 doctors they sent in a pediatric doctor to figure it out. They gave her a note, told her it was a bad case, no classes or work. The worst of the this is on her hands, swelling, itching and blisters. Never had a fever, no sores in the mouth but the rash (not blisters) is all over her body. Thank you to all the posters. I to was glad to read the thread but am now thinking my husband and I should prepare to have this next week.

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