Learn about the signs and symptoms, and how to prevent this common disease.
One morning, your usually happy-go-lucky baby is not feeling so well. You are used to seeing her climb over things and enjoy the freedom that walking and running has brought to her life. But today, she’s not feeling so carefree. She’s lost her appetite, seems fussy and in pain. Then, you notice her feet and arms are covered in pink dots. A few hours later, other parts of her body begin to swell too. After calling your family doctor, you might learn your child has hand, foot and mouth disease.
This mysterious and uncomfortable disease is actually very common among infants and children younger than five years old. However, older children and adults can also get it. It’s also more common to get hand, foot and mouth disease during summer and fall.
Signs & Symptoms
Hand, foot, and mouth disease usually starts with:
- a fever
- reduced appetite
- sore throat
- not feeling well
A few days after the fever starts, sores can develop in the mouth. These sores are painful and usually begin as small red spots, often in the back of the mouth. The spots may appear as blisters too.
These red spots or blisters can also appear on your child’s hands and feet. In some cases, red spots or blisters also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area.
Currently, there is no vaccine to protect against the viruses that cause hand, foot and mouth disease. However, there are some things you can do to help prevent it.
- Teach your little one how to wash their hands and incorporate this in your daily routine. Wash hands after diaper changes or using the potty.
- Disinfect surfaces and dirty items, like toys. Keep play areas clean.
- If possible, avoid situations where your child might come in close contact with other children with hand, foot and mouth disease. Kissing, hugging or sharing eating utensils or cups are some ways the disease gets spread.
At the moment, there is no treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease. But there are some things you can do to relieve the symptoms:
- Have your little one take over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever. Remember: aspirin should not be given to children.
- Find a kid-friendly mouthwash or spray that numbs mouth pain.
- Supply liquids. Young children may get dehydrated if they are not able to swallow enough liquids because of painful mouth sores.
- If you are concerned about your or your child’s symptoms you should contact your health care provider.
Keeping your child home.
Child care providers participating in Paths to QUALITY are required to follow guidelines that guarantee the safety of all children in their care. In the case of hand, foot and moth disease, licensed child care providers must exclude children from care if the child:
- does not have control of oral secretions (saliva)
- shows symptoms that interfere with participation or care of others.
- Podcast: Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease [4 mins] – CDC epidemiologist, Dr. Eileen Schneider, talks about hand, foot and mouth disease, its symptoms, how it spreads, and ways to help protect yourself and your children from getting infected with the virus.
- Check out these CDC websites:
This information was sourced from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease and is current as of August 13, 2019.
The information contained on this page should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Learn more about your child’s health!