Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a harmless but highly contagious viral disease against which there is no vaccination. It mainly affects children up to the age of ten, but it can also affect adults. Transmission usually occurs via droplets (coughing, sneezing, speaking), but is also possible via smear infection (saliva, stool, fluid from blisters). The time between contact to the onset of the disease is one to ten days and sometimes up to 30 days. Once the first symptoms occur, infected persons are contagious for about a week (as long as viruses are being secreted from the blisters). However, even after the symptoms have subsided, infants and toddlers continue to excrete viruses via their stool for weeks
A number of viruses can trigger the disease, which is the reason why you can catch it multiple times.
During onset of the disease:
- Aches and pains
- Sore throat
After 1 to 2 days:
- Painful blisters in the oral mucosa.
- A rash with many small red spots of varying shapes on the hands and feet that does not itch at first.
- Itching or pain only occurs once the blisters develop. The blisters heal after 8-10 days without forming a scab.
What can mum/dad do?
- Ensure the child drinks sufficient fluids despite the painful blisters to avoid dehydration.
- Treat the mouth ulcers with pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory tinctures (ask your paediatrician).
- For fever and pain: give medication to lower the child’s temperature and reduce pain (paracetamol / ibuprofen).
- The child should only go back to a childcare setting once symptoms have subsided.
When should you see a doctor?
There is no causal therapy for the disease and only the symptoms can be treated.
You will, however, absolutely have to see a doctor if
- the child refuses to drink fluids because of the blisters or
- the child’s overall condition deteriorates significantly.