If you have a child in daycare, this might be something you’ve heard of. Hand, foot, and mouth disease. The name sounds all sorts of confusing and very much scarier than it is. If you haven’t heard of it before you may be thinking – what the heck is that?! So let’s take a closer look..
Hand, foot, and mouth? Huh?
Hand, foot, and mouth disease (or HFM as I will refer to it from here on in) is actually an infection caused commonly by a virus called Coxsackie. It can also be caused by other viruses too – so this is not exclusive.
You really start to notice it (or hear of it) in the daycare population because it is an infection that is most common in younger children, particularly during the summer and fall seasons. It is seen in younger children because the infection is passed through contact – which little kids tend to be more prone to just because they’re touching their surroundings (including other children), then touching their face/mouth/etc. Prior to COVID (and likely still to an extent, during), smaller children also don’t wash their hands as much or as well as older children or adults, again increasing their risk of picking up this and many other infections (hence why little kids are always getting colds!).
Don’t worry though – it is generally a pretty mild illness.
What to look for:
Why is it actually called HFM? Because you see a few of the symptoms in these three areas. On the hands and the feet, a rash is often seen. It can look like red spots, sometimes with blistering.
In the mouth, a child (or adult, as adults can still get this infection) may present with ulcers. It can be hard to look in your little ones mouth, but you may notice that their mouth is irritating them without even seeing the ulcers (they may drool excessively or have a decreased appetite for example).
Other symptoms of illness include fever, sore throat, fatigue, malaise, and sometimes vomiting and/or diarrhea.
What is the treatment?
Since it’s a viral infection, there isn’t really much that can be done. It’s mostly a “watch, wait and support” protocol, similar to when your child has a cold.
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen – follow the guidance of your provider or pharmacist (for the pain associated with the ulcers or for a fever if present)
- Food, water, rest for your little one – avoid juices as they may irritate the mouth ulcers, if present
- Keep them home from daycare or school when symptomatic (and follow the guidance of your provider) because they can still spread the illness to other children
- Encourage your child not to touch their blisters, and don’t pick them yourself!
Everyone in the home and in contact with your little one should be encouraged to wash their hands frequently, especially after diaper changes or visits to the washroom since stool is one of the ways the infection is passed on. (I mean, this should be something everyone should really be doing regularly too but… yeah).
If you have questions or concerns – contact your provider. As with other illnesses, any signs of dehydration; change in alertness or confusion; or other signs of distress should be reported immediately.
If your babe picks this up – remember it’s common. Offer support and keep them home. It only lasts about 7-10 days maximum so they should be feeling better in no time! But don’t be afraid to reach out to your trusted care provider if needed for support and advice.