What is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a infection thats extremely contagious. It’s caused by viruses from the Enterovirus genus, most commonly the coxsackievirus. These viruses can spread from person-to-person through direct contact with unwashed hands or surfaces that is contaminated with feces. An infected person’s saliva, stool, or respiratory secretions can also infect another through contact.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is portray by blisters or sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet. People of all ages can be infected, but it usually appear in children under age 5-6. It is generally a mild condition that goes away on its own within several days.
Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease
The symptoms begin to develop three to seven days after the initial infection. This period is known as the incubation period. When symptoms do appear, you or your child may experience:
- a fever
- a poor appetite
- a sore throat
- a headache
- painful, red blisters in the mouth
- a red rash on the hands and the soles of the feet
A fever and sore throat are usually the first symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease. The characteristic blisters and rashes show up later, usually one or two days after the fever begins.
What causes hand, foot, and mouth disease?
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is often caused by a strain of coxsackievirus, most commonly coxsackievirus A16. The coxsackievirus is part of a group of viruses called enteroviruses. In some cases, other types of enteroviruses can cause hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Viruses can be easily spread from person-to-person.
You or your child may contract hand, foot, and mouth disease through contact with an infected person’s:
- fluid from blisters
- respiratory droplets sprayed into the air after coughing or sneezing
Hand, foot, and mouth disease can also be transmitted through direct contact with unwashed hands or a surface containing traces of the virus.
How is hand, foot, and mouth disease treated?
Without treatment in seven to 10 days the infection will go away in most cases. However, your doctor may recommend certain treatments to help ease symptoms until the disease has run its course.
These can include:
- prescription or over-the-counter topical ointments to soothe blisters and rashes
- pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to relieve headaches
- medicated syrups or lozenges to ease painful sore throats
Certain at-home treatments can also provide relief from hand, foot, and mouth disease symptoms. You can try the following home remedies to help make blisters less bothersome:
- Suck on ice or popsicles.
- Eat ice cream or sherbet.
- Drink cold beverages.
- Avoid citrus fruits, fruit drinks, and soda.
- Avoid spicy or salty foods.
Swishing warm salt water around in the mouth may also help relieve the pain associated with mouth blisters and throat sores. Do this several times a day or as often as needed.
How can hand, foot, and mouth disease be prevented?
Practicing good hygiene is the best defense against hand, foot, and mouth disease. Regular hand-washing can greatly reduce your risk of contracting this virus.
Teach your children how to wash their hands using hot water and soap. Hands should always be washed after using the restroom, before eating, and after being out in public. Children should also be taught not to put their hands or other objects in or near their mouths.
It’s also important to disinfect any common areas in your home on a regular basis. Get in the habit of cleaning shared surfaces first with soap and water, then with a diluted solution of bleach and water. You should also disinfect toys, pacifiers, and other objects that may be contaminated with the virus.
If you or your child experience symptoms such as a fever or sore throat, stay home from school or work. You should continue avoiding contact with others once the telltale blisters and rashes develop. This can help you avoid spreading the disease to others.