I don’t know about your area, but around here Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease is spreading like the plague! So, what exactly is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease and how do you treat it?
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What Is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?
Hand, Foot, and Mouth is known as a ‘mild’ virus (I put that in quotes because it most definitely doesn’t FEEL mild) most typically caused by Coxsackievirus. In case you were wondering, I quintuple checked the spelling of that. What do medical words have to be so complicated? Anyway, it is a HIGHLY contagious viral infection. It is so contagious because, as the CDC says on their page about it, it can be spread just about every way imaginable. You can catch it from someone’s cough or sneeze, from accidentally coming into contact with the blisters (which can be on the hand, so could easily happen while shaking hands), by touching a surface that has been recently touched by someone with Hand, Foot, and Mouth (this is one of the big ways it hits whole daycares, because kids share toys during the day). There aren’t really many risks associated with catching it. Rarely, the blisters can become infected (though I’ve never actually heard of someone having that happen to them in any of circles). The most common complication is dehydration, occasionally requiring IV fluids, because the sore mouth and throat cause children to refuse to eat or drink anything.
Typical Course of Hand, Foot, and Mouth
This comes from both medical sources and our own family experience with this nasty bug
- The person develops a fever (up to and just over 103 isn’t uncommon, but can be as low as 100-101) and because quite fatigued and sleepy.
- About 1-3 days after the fever begins, the person develops a sore throat, often a SEVERELY sore throat, and tends to lose his/her appetite. In young children who can’t yet articulate how they feel this stage can easily be mistaken for an ear infection because they tend to scream all night and refuse to eat. We found out about Hand, Foot, and Mouth the first time by taking our son in for a suspected ear infection.
- A day or two after the sore throat kicks in, sores/blisters may begin to appear on the body. Typically they are found near the mouth, and on the hands and feet (as the name suggests). Sometimes, though, they will spread all over the body, depending on the severity of the strain. Also be aware that children with very sensitive skin and/or eczema are likely to have a much more severe rash. While typically the most you will see is a few blisters on each spot, as you can see in the picture above, my little guy with extremely sensitive skin had it spread a TON. The picture below shows how it can spread to other parts. That is from this past week when he caught it, AGAIN. Yes, you can get it more than once. Since there are many strains of Hand, Foot, and Mouth, you can catch it multiple times by getting different strains. Lovely, I know.
Treating Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
There is no set medicine, treatment, or ‘cure’ for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. That’s one of the lousy things about viruses, you just have to wait them out. That said, there are a number of things you can do to treat the symptoms and ease the pain while you wait for the bug to pass. We’ll start with more natural options and move to more ‘western’ medicine.
- Cold foods: One of the most painful symptoms is definitely the sore throat (and often mouth) that can come with Hand, Foot, Mouth. I was 31 years when I caught it from my kids and it was, by far, the WORST sore throat I have ever had. Not only does this help to numb some of the pain, it also helps to prevent dehydration. Use whatever ones are your child’s favorite and they are most likely to eat. Sometimes they honestly won’t even be willing to have popsicles or ice cream for a few days when things are at their worst, but do your best. If you want to choose something ‘healthier’ like this, try making homemade fruit juice pops, or ‘ice cream’ made from frozen bananas.
- The quicker the blister rash clears up, the quicker the pain will be gone. While there is no perfect, 100% effective fix for this, we as a family (and many of my friends and their families) have had great success with a bit of lavender essential oil or Gentle Baby essential oil blend mixed with coconut oil.
- Hand, Foot, and Mouth also tends to bring mouth pain with it since the blisters can form on the inside of the mouth. A more ‘natural’ way to address this pain is to try some baby teething tablets. For some they will act in a similar way to what they do for teething pain. They are a nice earlier step to try before going on to traditional pain relievers.
- The next step in your arsenal against Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is traditional pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Both of these can help to ease the pain, but in my experience ibuprofen is more effective in this case because it helps to reduce inflammation as well as relieve the pain.
Do You Need a Doctor?
In all likelihood, you will not need to see a doctor for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Since it is a relatively mild and harmless infection, and is viral (and thus not treated with antibiotics), there isn’t much that a doctor can do. There are times that the infection does require a trip to the doctor, though.
- First and foremost, it is important to keep an eye out for signs of dehydration. In a child that can mean very few to no wet diapers or trips to the bathroom, sunken eyes, dry, cracked lips, lethargy, and lack of tears when crying. If you are concerned that your child has become dehydrated, call your doctor or head straight to urgent care. If it seems severe, going to the emergency department may be necessary.
- On rare occasions, the blisters themselves can become infected. If this happens, you should consult with your doctor to see how best to treat the infection. It is not something you want to let get out of control.
- In very severe cases of the virus, it may become necessary to use prescription pain relievers. This is not something to take lightly or jump to quickly, but it may be necessary. Several years back when my children caught a SEVERE strain, my then 1 year old reached the point where his pain absolutely could not be controlled. He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep, he wouldn’t drink anything (not even when we offered his favorite treats like chocolate milk), and would just lay there and scream in pain for hour on end. Our pediatrician decided that it was best turn to a stronger pain medicine at that point and we agreed. This is not typical, but sometimes what is a mild infection brings severe enough symptoms that it is necessary.
Have you ever dealt with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease? Share what worked for you to help get through it.
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