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!