It’s a virus (namely Coxsackie virus) that causes fever, malaise, irritability, mouth sores, and blisters/rash on palms of hands, soles of feet, and sometimes buttocks and thighs too. Children with eczema often get a more severe and angry looking rash.
It affects mostly children ages 1 to 4 years old. But adults can occasionally get it too.
And it’s extremely painful.
In young children we worry about dehydration because they often refuse to eat or drink to due to the terrible mouth and throat pain.
This illness is highly contagious, particularly during the first 3-5 days of illness when the child has a fever, is drooling, and has open blisters.
Since this is a virus and will run its course within 3-7 days, the best thing you can do for your child is control her pain and push those fluids to prevent dehydration. Antibiotics will not work.
- Giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease the pain.
- Offering ice cold water, Popsicles (Pedialyte Pops), and frequent sips of cold fluids to both soothe a sore mouth and stay on top of his hydration
- Plenty of TLC. Those sores in the mouth and on the feet/hands are truly painful. You can expect a few restless/crying nights until the storm has passed.
- Keeping your child home while she has a fever, open blisters, and mouth sores.
- Hand washing frequently to prevent the spread amongst family and friends. Note: it is spread through saliva/mucus, liquid from blisters, and feces. It can also live on surfaces for a couple of days. Clean/disinfect daily.
- Calling your child’s doctor if he refuses to drink and has decreased urine output, no tears, sunken eyes, etc (signs of dehydration).
Contrary to popular belief, this virus has nothing to do with hoof/mouth disease found in barnyard animals.
This virus is incredibly common among the toddler/preschool set and will resolve with time and your best TLC.
Be aware that sometimes, finger/toenails can fall off and skin can peel following a round of Hand Foot Mouth Disease. It’s not as common, but can happen and not to worry, those nails will grow back.More great articles on Hand Foot Mouth Disease: From KidsHealth: Hand Foot Mouth Disease From Healthy Children (AAP): Hand Foot Mouth Disease From CDC: Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease