Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Children
by Ailing Chen, MD (Caughman Health Center)
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common disease among children, especially for those under 5 years of age. Outbreaks of this disease in Ohio often happen during the summer and fall. It is most commonly caused by Coxsaskieviruses, which causes painful blisters in the mouth and throat as well as blister rashes on the hands, feet and diaper area. The virus is spread by the close contact, cough, nasal or oral secretions, and/or stool from infected persons.
This disease typically begins with a fever, followed by a sore throat and poor appetite. Younger children who cannot yet express themselves well usually present symptoms such as fussiness and constant crying, and they most likely refuse to eat. The painful blisters in the mouth and throat begin to show one to two days after the fever onsets. Red blister rashes may be found around the mouth and on the hands, feet and buttocks area, gradually developing in the following one to two days. Rashes usually are not too itchy for most children, but could be very itchy for adults. Fortunately, rashes usually disappear by themselves in about a week. However, some children could have fingernails or toenails peel off a few weeks later. Children also may experience vomiting and diarrhea.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is typically a minor disease, causing only a few days’ worth of mild signs and symptoms. There is no specific medication or vaccine to prevent hand, foot and mouth disease. The treatment mostly involves supportive care at home. Individuals can use Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen to decrease fever and pain. Cold food, such as cold oral rehydration fluid, popsicles, smoothies, yogurt and ice cream are helpful for children who have a sore throat and/or trouble swallowing. It also an effective way to keep children hydrated.
Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluid to stay hydrated. Call your child’s provider if he or she has mouth sores that keep him or her from drinking fluids, especially when signs of dehydration are present. If dehydration is severe, intravenous (IV) fluid may be necessary, especially for younger children. If your child’s symptoms are not improving within a few days, or if they are becoming worse, contact your pediatrician for further evaluation.
Certain precautions could help to reduce the risk of hand, foot and mouth disease:
- Wash hands carefully and frequently, especially after using the toilet and before preparing food and/or eating
- Keep infected children out of day care or school until fever disappears and mouth sores have healed
- Teach children how to practice good hygiene and how to keep themselves clean
For more information, contact your health care provider.