I’ve been on call this weekend, and gotten quite a few calls about fevers and rashes that sound like Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. This illness is very common during the Spring and Summer months, is highly contagious, and very common among young children. For those of you that are wondering, is this the same thing as Foot and Mouth Disease? NO, totally different!!!
Hand, Foot and Mouth is a Coxsackievirus that causes bumps, blisters, and/or ulcers
on the hands, the feet,
in and around the mouth,
and Yes, on the buttocks and backs of the legs.
The bumps that appeared on the backside and back of the legs of a toddler is what prompted one of the calls from a Mom this weekend. Actually, the only symptoms that this child had were fever and red throat when he was seen in the office. Over the past 24 hours, the bumps on the buttocks and back of the legs appeared. So far, there is no hand or foot rash involved. All cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth present differently, not everyone gets the typical rash. Some kids will only have a fever and sores in the mouth, and possibly go undiagnosed.
This virus is spread via direct contact with nose and throat secretions, saliva, fluid from blisters, or the stools. Most people will get Hand, Foot and Mouth as a child, and then more than likely never get it again. The incubation period is about 3-7 days. Most parents will not get the virus because they were exposed as children. Although, I do know of one mom that got it, and got it pretty bad. Ouch!!
Hand, Food, and Mouth starts with a fever, and usually the fever is pretty high, up to 103’s. The fever starts prior to the arrival of the rash. During the febrile stage the child typically doesn’t want to eat. They aren’t eating because the sores in the mouth are painful. The goal of treatment during this stage is to keep the child hydrated. I highly recommend giving cold drinks, freeze pops, popsicles, pudding, yogurt, milkshakes, smoothies, etc. DO NOT give the child anything that is hot, spicy, or acidic. Orange juice, soda and pizza would be a NO NO!
There is no medicine to treat Hand, Foot and Mouth. The only thing Mom and Dad can do is keep their little one comfortable. Giving Tylenol or Motrin for the fever and for the pain caused by the ulcers is the best way to handle this difficult time. As with any other virus, antibiotics will not help! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Antibiotics are for bacterial infections, they will NOT get rid of viruses. Viruses are not bacteria. Keeping your child comfortable and treating the fever are your top priorities. If you need to know more about fevers in children, please check out my blog on Fevers: To Treat or Not To Treat??
Hand, Foot and Mouth usually last about 5-7 days. Keeping the child home from daycare, school, and away from other children will help prevent the spread of disease. Unfortunately, the fever typically precedes the rash and may not be that high in the beginning, so others may be exposed accidently. I was guilty of this when Joshua was in pre-school. I thought he was cutting molars, and gave him Motrin because his temperature was 100-101F. After a few days, his temp when up to 102.9. I had him evaluated by his pediatrician, and that is when we discovered the ulcers in his mouth. So, the fever and not eating wasn’t teething after all, and I had exposed the whole preschool. Oops, I felt bad, but there wasn’t anything I could do except warn the teachers and other parents, and tell them what to watch for.
Hand, Foot, and Mouth is one of those childhood illnesses that everyone gets. As parents, it’s all part of the journey. Every parent has had to deal with Hand, Foot and Mouth. Some kids will only get a mild case, and their parents won’t ever know what that fever was because the rash was only in the mouth and never observed by a practitioner for diagnosis. Those children (and parents) that experience those mild, undiagnosed cases are the lucky ones! Hand, Foot and Mouth hurts, and if you child doesn’t have to suffer through it, be thankful!!
So, if you have a child that experiences a high fever anytime soon, keep in mind it could be this painful Coxsackievirus that should be called Hand, Foot, Mouth and Butt!
Just another part of the journey for all of us parents to suffer through. As I always say, regardless of the difficulties, I hope you enjoy the journey! 😉