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What is Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease?

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is caused by a virus that is typically spread through fecal-oral contact. The disease is very common in children younger than 10, especially in the summer and fall months.

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease results in a distinctive rash.

The disease is called 'hand, foot and mouth' because it causes small, blister-like bumps in the mouth, and a rash on the palms of the hands and feet. The lesions in the mouth usually appear at the back of the throat. The rash may also appear in the diaper area and on the legs and arms.

What is the treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease?

Unfortunately, antibiotics are not effective against viral infections like hand-foot-and mouth disease. However, there are still measures you can take if your child is diagnosed with the illness.

Treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease is aimed at minimizing the severity of the symptoms and helping the child feel more comfortable: 

Dehydration:

Guard against dehydration by increasing the fluid your child takes.

Fever:

Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lower fever. Here is a guide to using over-the-counter fever-reducing medicines.

NEVER give aspirin to your child. Aspirin has been associated with Reye's Syndrome, a serious complication.

Mouth Pain:

Anesthetic mouth rinses or sprays may help lessen the pain of any sores in the mouth or throat.

How can I help prevent the spread of hand-foot-and-mouth disease?

In the event that your child is diagnosed with hand-foot-and-mouth disease, ensure contaminated surfaces in your home are cleaned routinely with sanitizers or disinfectants.

Encourage your children to practice good hand-washing habits before eating and after they use the bathroom.

When is my child contagious and for how long?

Remove your child or children from school or daycare upon diagnosis. While antibiotics are not effective against viral infections, symptoms typically resolve within a week.

However, infected persons can still transmit the virus for 1-2 weeks after symptoms disappear.

Be sure to follow up with your child’s health care provider to track the progress of symptoms and ensure a full recovery.

Karen K. Meyer, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Hawthorne Court (178 & Q)

Dr. Meyer answers your questions about child development and parenting. Dr. Meyer decided to become a doctor when she was in school and learned about the body's systems and the miracle of how they all work together. She likes talking to children and helping them feel better. Dr. Meyer believes that children are not little adults and they need to be treated in a way that will help them understand why they aren't feeling well and what they can do to get better. She also works to build tru ...

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