Here are a few things you should know about hand foot and mouth disease and the recommended treatments. The coxsackievirus is the known cause for this common childhood ailment.
While hand, foot, and mouth disease is more common in children, adults can become infected too. Sometimes they have no symptoms at all, but they and you can still spread the infection to others.
How does it spread?
Hand, foot, and mouth disease are passed through bodily fluids—which explains why it travels like wildfire in places that young kids hang out like daycares and school. The virus is easily spread to hard surfaces like shopping carts, toys, and tables. A person can pass the virus through fluid from the blisters of their rash, mucus in their nose, saliva, and even contact with their poop. It’s important for parents to teach children to wash and dry their hands often and properly to help prevent infections.
Effective hand washing means wetting hands with water, applying soap, and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. That is like singing happy birthday. To minimize the risk of getting it and passing it, say no thank you to hugging, kissing, or sharing utensils, cups, toys, and other items with people who are sick. Make sure they and you are washing your hands frequently.
How long are you contagious?
Even after the symptoms disappear, your child could still pass the virus to others. Hand, foot, and mouth disease are contagious through oral secretions and stool. Once the fever and symptoms have resolved, the virus is no longer in the mouth, but it can remain in the stool for several weeks following infection. Therefore, you can be exposed to the virus by a child who appears better and has no symptoms. Again, practice good handwashing techniques to help reduce the risk of passing it on to others.
What are the symptoms?
While the rash is a telltale sign that you’re dealing with coxsackievirus, what are the other symptoms? The rash really distinguishes this virus from others, it is made up of small red scattered bumps and blisters that are predominantly on the hands and feet, but can also be in the groin area, the arms, legs, face, and torso. It can also cause a rash and small sores in the mouth.
But coxsackievirus is capable of causing a variety of symptoms, including fever, fatigue, muscle aches, runny nose and congestion, sore throat, vomiting, and diarrhea. The fever from hand, foot, and mouth disease can be quite high.
There’s no cure for hand, foot, and mouth disease, so treating it mainly consists of keeping your child comfortable. You can use over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce fever and the pain of mouth sores, cold drinks, ice or popsicles can help soothe mouth sores as well. IT usually takes five to 10 days to run its course. I have used a few drops of peppermint essential oil mixed with coconut oil in a small spray bottle on the hands, feet, and mouth.
- For children over age 1, give fluids such as chicken broth or apple juice. Or, rinse the mouth after meals with 1 teaspoon of a liquid antacid that does not contain aspirin or benzocaine which can be harmful to children.
- For children over 4 years, use throat lozenges or sprays.
- For children over 6 years who are able to gargle without swallowing, you can use a mixture of 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt to one 8 ounce glass of warm water. Swish and gargle and spit. Use 2 to 3 times a day, as needed
Watch Out for Dehydration
If children are not drinking enough fluids because of the pain, they can get dehydrated quickly. Managing the pain and making sure children are getting enough fluids are very important. Some children with sores in the mouth have difficulty swallowing. Painful mouth sores that come with hand, foot, and mouth disease could lead to severe complications dehydration that requires IV fluids if not careful.
While most cases clear up in a couple of weeks with no lasting concerns, in rare cases, complications can occur. As with other viruses, coxsackievirus can infect other areas of the body such as the brain or spinal fluid, which results in meningitis or encephalitis, It can also cause heart infections. Hand, foot, and mouth disease is one of those childhood illnesses that can keep coming back, according to the Mayo Clinic. Gradually, your child will build antibodies against the virus, which will reduce the chances of it coming back again. Washing your hand is the best way to prevent the spread of disease.