We are seeing a nationwide outbreak of hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) this summer, with more cases than in recent years. HFMD is a common infection in children. It usually causes sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands, feet or buttocks, sometimes spreading to other areas and lasts about 7-10 days.
Common symptoms of HFMD include:
Recently, there have been cases of children shedding their fingernails or toenails a few weeks or months after having HFMD. This is not dangerous, and the nails will grow back normally in several months.
HFMD is caused by a virus. It is easily spread from person to person and is most contagious while the child has a fever and shortly after. It can be spread by breathing infected air (such as when someone coughs or sneezes), or contact with infected saliva or stool.
Though HFMD can cause some discomfort, it is rarely serious and most cases can be easily managed at home.
There is no specific treatment for HFMD. It will go away with time. However, you can reduce discomfort by the following home measures:
Most of the time, HFMD can be managed at home. You should seek medical care if your child has any of the following:
If your child is seen by a doctor, she will determine if your child does indeed have HFMD and check for other illnesses such as an ear infection or strep throat. She will make sure that your child is not seriously ill or dehydrated and may offer further pain management or other medications (if needed). In addition, she can give further advice on how care for your child’s symptoms at home.
HFMD can look quite scary and make your child feel miserable at times, but with a little time and care at home, most children do just fine.
You can help prevent illnesses like this by teaching your child to wash his or her hands frequently and discouraging sharing of cups, utensils or personal items. Parents should also keep children out of daycare, out of school or from playing with others, until they are free of fever for 24 hours.