Dental Health Topics

How to Spot Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

The dreaded hand, foot, and mouth disease. Just its name sounds unpleasant.

This disease mostly affects children 5 years old and younger and can spread quickly in daycare settings or other close quarters where little ones share toys and germs.

The best thing you can do as a parent is know how to spot it and what to do if your little one (or you) gets sick.

What Is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?

Also known as HFMD, hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by a set of viruses.

It is a common childhood illness, but adults can also come down with it. While it’s far from fun, the virus is not as bad as it sounds, and typically resolves between 7 and 10 days.

What Are the Symptoms?

The most common first symptoms of HFMD are a fever and just feeling crummy.

Your little one may want to lie down on the couch and take a rest from their normally busy day. They may also lack an appetite, have a sore throat, or suddenly refuse to eat, drink, or nurse.

A day or two later, the classic red sores appear. Typically, these show up on hands, feet, and around or in the mouth. They can also appear on the buttocks, genitals, or back. The sores are small, red, flat, and painful, and they can develop into blisters.

(Note: Not everyone who has HFMD will experience all these symptoms. Someone may be infected but have a really mild case or have no symptoms at all.) 

How Does It Spread?

Since the virus is present in saliva, the ooze from the blisters, and other secretions, HFMD spreads quickly.

If you come into contact with these fluids and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you can become infected.

The most effective way to prevent the spread is to wash hands frequently, especially after a diaper change or bathroom visit. Also promptly disinfect toys that have ended up in your little one’s mouth.

How Is HFMD Treated?

There is no treatment or cure for HFMD.

The best you can do is keep your little one comfortable, such as offering fever reducers or pain relievers; give your pediatrician’s office a call to see what they recommend.

One side effect to watch out for is dehydration, since your little one might not feel like drinking fluids. Offer ice chips, popsicles, or cold drinks to help. If you notice signs of dehydration, call your child’s doctor right away.

Brushing and Flossing with HFMD

Try as best you can to maintain your child’s dental health routine of brushing and flossing. If their mouth sores are bothering them, a few days off of brushing is not going to hurt them.

Just be sure to get back to their normal routine once their sores are gone so that those days off don't turn into a habit of dental neglect.

Be Brave, Parents!

HFMD isn’t fun, but usually, it is not a big deal and resolves easily. Use this opportunity to get some extra snuggles and to teach the importance of proper handwashing hygiene. You got this ;)