Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease

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Fever and rash have taken over your baby. It's possible he has hand, foot & mouth disease. Know the signs and what to do.

You start the day off like any other day … chasing your tot around the house to get him dressed. As the day goes on, you notice little changes in his behavior. He’s suddenly a little tired and cranky, when otherwise he’s ecstatic to go run in the yard. He’s running a fever. Many things run through your mind as to the cause of this new-found fever. Has he been around anyone sick? What are you going to do to make him feel better? You’ve determined his tiredness is from the fever, but after you’ve given him a full once-over, you notice tiny bumps around his hands and feet.

It’s come to our attention that there have been many children in and out of the doctor’s office lately with hand, foot & mouth disease (HFMD). Symptoms of HFMD include fever, mouth sores and a skin rash. Before you know it, your little guy could also form a rash around — and possibly in — his mouth. The disease is different with each child, and some kids can experience the symptoms more worse than others.

Kate Carlson, M.D., assistant medical director and pediatrician at Vanderbilt Pediatric Primary Care Clinic, says, “Hand, foot and mouth disease is an illness caused by a virus that can last three to five days that can appear in children ages 5 and younger. It causes ulcers in the back of the throat and in the mouth, ulcers and/or blisters on palms of the hands and soles of the feet.” Typically, those with HFMD run a fever.

Like any virus, it can be passed from one to another. Children usually pick it up from contact with other children their age. Carlson says that some kids may even have the virus and not even know it. You can be a carrier, or even have a mild case of it, and pass it along. Once you see ulcers or other signs, keep your child away from other kids. This virus can suppress the immune system of babies, elderly and people undergoing medical treatments, too.

“We are seeing a lot of cases of this virus right now,” says Carlson. “There have been a number of patients lately. From the last two to three weeks, we’ve been seeing a couple each day. We’re seeing the ulcers in their mouths first. And, because it’s a virus, antibiotics will not work. Seeing your pediatrician will help determine what your child has and the best course of action to take,” adds Carlson.

Carlson advises you may need some over-the-counter pain controllers for little ones to get them to drink fluids — for instance, ibuprofen on a scheduled six-hour basis. Children with the virus may not want to eat very much due to painful ulcers in the mouth. Carlson strongly urges parents to keep their children well hydrated during this time. “Don’t worry about giving them solid food, but liquids are the most important thing,” says Carlson. “Some kids do well with warmer liquids like lukewarm hot chocolate, tea, etc. Some kids may like colder things like slushies and popsicles.” If they’re in pain because of the ulcers in their mouth, they could become dehydrated for lack of wanting to drink anything. One can also allow throat lozenges for older kids where it doesn’t pose a choking hazard. The good thing is this virus typically goes away with hardly any treatment.


Kiera Ashford is associate editor of Nashville Parent and mother of three.

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