Leena Thomas, Pharmacist

By Leena Thomas, Pharmacist

If you have young kids in school or daycare, you are no stranger to viral infections. Although you’ve likely dealt with the usual suspects like the common cold, tonsillitis, and bronchitis, there is one that pops up more in the fall that may have you stumped.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is another viral infection caused by Coxsackievirus A16/A6 or EV71. It is more common in infants and children younger than 5 years old. HFMD begins as fever and flu-like symptoms with small red spots often on the tongue and insides of the mouth. Another symptom is getting skin rashes that form on the palms, soles, or buttocks which are not itchy but can blister. Mouth sore can become blister-like lesions that make swallowing painful.

Most children have mild symptoms for 7 to 10 days but are highly contagious. The virus can spread through nose and throat secretions (saliva, drool, or nasal mucus), fluid from blisters, and fecal matter.

There is no specific treatment for HFMD, most people get better on their own in 7-10 days. You can use over-the-counter pain and cold medications to manage the symptoms and make sure they drink enough to stay hydrated while the virus runs its course.

Complications are rare but include dehydration, viral meningitis, and encephalitis.

See your doctor or nurse practitioner if:

  • Your child is younger than six months.
  • Their immune system is weak or compromised.
  • Symptoms last longer than 10 days or fever longer than 3 days.
  • If you can’t get them to drink fluids and fear dehydration.

You can lower the risk of infection with good hygiene, disinfectant, and handwashing, but kids will be kids. Just ready the tissues and warm hugs and prepare to ride out the storm!