Childhood Diseases Common Illnesses Hand Foot Mouth

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral illness that primarily affects children aged 10 and under. It’s caused by the coxsackie virus, and its main symptoms are sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet. There is currently no vaccine for this mild illness, but there are steps families can take to prevent it.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is often confused with foot and mouth disease (also known as hoof and mouth disease), a viral disease found in farm animals. Hand, foot and mouth disease cannot be transmitted between humans and animals. In the United States, hand, foot and mouth disease is usually seen in the summer or early fall when the temperatures are warmest.

Symptoms of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Initial symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease include:

  • Fever
  • Malaise (feeling of being vaguely unwell)
  • Poor appetite
  • Sore throat.

A few days later, painful sores erupt in the mouth, followed by a hand rash and foot rash. The rash is characterized by flat or raised red spots that may blister, but are not itchy. A rash may appear on the buttocks as well.

Symptoms may vary in each case. While some people may get only mouth sores, others will only experience blisters on the hands or feet. It’s not uncommon for those with hand, foot and mouth disease to experience no symptoms at all.

Coxsackie Virus - Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Coxsackie Complications

Hand, foot and mouth disease is most often not serious and usually lasts for about seven to ten days. There are few complications associated with the illness. Rarely, viral meningitis may appear, requiring a minor hospital stay. Other extremely rare complications include polio-like paralysis or encephalitis (swelling of the brain), which can be fatal. Contact your physician if you suspect any such complications signaled by stiffness of the neck, back pain or headache.

Treatment for Coxsackie

Hand, foot and mouth disease is moderately contagious and is spread through direct contact with fluids from sneezing, coughing, open blisters or saliva. There is no specific medical treatment for the illness, but there are steps you can take to relieve symptoms. These include providing plenty of fluids to your child and administering ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce pain. Avoid citrus or other acidic juices, as these could irritate the mouth sores and cause pain. (And never give aspirin to a child with a viral illness, as it’s been linked to Reye’s Syndrome, which is known to cause liver failure and death).

Be sure your child gets plenty of rest. You may wish to offer an oral salt water rinse or mouth wash to numb pain if he can rinse without swallowing. Good hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, is the best way to prevent this illness. Always contact your physician if you have questions or if you feel your child’s condition is getting worse.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (2008). CDC features: Hand, foot and mouth disease. Retrieved December 16, 2009, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HandFootMouthDisease/.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (2008). Hand, foot and mouth disease. Retrieved December 16, 2009, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/enterovirus/hfhf.htm.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Preparing for your appointment. Retrieved December 16, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hand-foot-and-mouth-disease/DS00599/DSECTION=preparing-for-your-appointment.

Med Line Plus Staff. (2009). Hand, foot and mouth disease. Retrieved December 16, 2009, from the Med Line Plus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000965.htm.