Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) is most common in children, primarily affecting those younger than age 10 and often those under 5. However, it is possible for teens and adults to get the disease, too. Here in the United States, outbreaks of this disease happen occasionally in the summer and fall months. But the outbreaks are rare. So, what is this disease? And how do you know if you or your children have contracted it?
What Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease Is
You may have heard of hoof-and-mouth disease, but HFMD is not the same as or related to it. Hoof-and-mouth disease is an infectious viral disease found in farm animals. It cannot be contracted from pets or other animals, nor can you pass it on to them.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a mild, contagious viral infection. Again, it is common in children, especially the young ones, more than it is in adults. Why? Because the infection spreads through person-to-person contact. And young children are the most susceptible. But children usually develop immunity to HFMD as they get older.
If your child has contracted HFMD, they may show all or some of the following signs and symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Painful, red, blister-like ulcers on their tongue, gums, and on the inside of their cheeks
- Red rash on the palms of their hands, soles of their feet, and sometimes their bottoms
- Irritability and sick-feeling (infants and toddlers, especially)
- Loss of appetite
Your child is most contagious three to six days from the first sign of hand-foot-and-mouth disease. A fever is often the first sign of the disease, followed by a sore throat, and sometimes a poor appetite and a sick-feeling.
You can expect to see painful sores on their tongue, gums, and on the inside of their cheeks or throat, one or two days after the fever begins.
A rash on their hands and feet and possibly on their bottoms can follow within another day or two. The rash doesn’t itch, but it does sometimes blister.
How Your Child Contracts HFMD
HFMD is most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus. And it enters the body through the mouth in almost all cases. It is not a serious disease. But if it isn’t taken seriously, major complications could develop.
Those infected with the disease spread it to other people in the following ways:
- Nasal secretions
- Saliva, coughing, and/or sneezing
- Fluid (from blisters)
What is the Treatment for HFMD?
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment. Therefore, prevention is always the best medicine for this disease.
To reduce the risk of contracting or spreading hand-foot-and-mouth disease:
- Always wash your hands thoroughly and frequently after using the toilet or changing a diaper. Wash your hands before preparing food and eating it, too. What do you do if soap and water aren’t available? Use hand wipes or gels containing alcohol.
- Because the disease is most common in childcare settings, clean high-traffic areas and surfaces with soap and water first. Follow with a spray bottle filled with a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water. This includes toys, tabletops, and doorknobs, for example, because the virus can live on surfaces for days.
- Wash your baby’s pacifiers often.
- Practice good hygiene and show your kids how to practice it, too.
- Because hand-foot-and-mouth disease is highly contagious, limit your child’s exposure to others while they have active signs and symptoms. And if you have the illness, stay home from work.
Note: The virus can remain in you or your child’s body for weeks even after the signs and symptoms are gone. This means you or your child can still infect others. Adults, in particular, can pass the virus without showing any signs or symptoms of the disease.
When It’s Time to See the Doctor
Dehydration is the most common complication of HFMD. If swallowing and drinking hurt badly enough to keep your child from drinking fluids, contact your doctor. Also, call your doctor’s office if your child’s signs and symptoms worsen after a few days.
Are you wondering if you or your child have hand-foot-and-mouth disease? When we suspect the presence of HFMD in a patient, we will advise that patient to contact their doctor for confirmation. We are happy to answer any questions you may have in relation to HFMD, call Davis Dental at (307) 634-3488 today.
Quality Dental Care for Your Whole Family
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Cheyenne, WY 82001
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