How to Survive Hand, Food & Mouth Disease Season with Kids

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Is your kiddo in daycare? Do your littles spend plenty of time around other children? Hand, foot and mouth disease in kids is a common childhood illness—it’s common for kids to pick it up this time of year. Even though anyone of any age can come down with a case of HFMD, this easy-to-pass-on virus is most often seen in children ages five and under.

If you have concerns about this illness, have never heard of it or just want to do whatever you can to protect your kiddo (because of course you do), read on for the scoop on hand, foot and mouth disease.

Photo: Shelbey Miller via Unsplash

What Is HFMD?

Yes, the words “hand, foot and mouth disease” sound scary. But in reality this virus is common and typically mild in most otherwise healthy children. HFMD is a viral infection, most often caused by coxsackievirus. (In some cases enterovirus is the culprit behind the illness, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that HFMD associated with enterovirus is more likely in outbreaks that occur in East and Southeast Asia.)

Children infected with the virus typically develop sores in their mouth, along with a rash on their hands and feet. (And now you know where the name comes from.) Some children also develop a rash or blisters on their elbows, knees, buttocks or genital area. While it may look like chicken pox, it’s not.

Most healthy children will recover from the virus on their own. Some children, and even adults, can have the virus without any symptoms. This means it’s possible to pass HFMD on without ever knowing you have it.

Using proper hand-washing techniques and avoiding sick people can help to reduce your child’s risks of getting HFMD.

Is There an HFMD Vaccine?

Currently there is no vaccine for HFMD. While anyone with a compromised immune system or existing health conditions could develop serious symptoms (and in some rare cases the disease can progress into a more severe illness in some otherwise healthy kiddos), it usually resolves on its own without medical intervention.

How Do I Know if My Kid Has HFMD?

The common symptoms of HFMD include:

  • Painful mouth sores
  • Rash (hands and feet)
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Reduced appetite

When Should We See a Doctor?

If you have any doubts about your child’s health, always call the pediatrician immediately. Even though this virus is mild in most children, if your child doesn’t get better, has a high fever, is in pain, dehydrated or in any other way seems “off,” contact the doc ASAP.

—Erica Loop



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