Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease: Your Questions Answered

If your little one comes down with hand, foot and mouth disease, it’s likely that he or she picked it up from another child. It can be common in the early fall in child care centers and preschools. The disease causes a rash on the palms and soles of the feet, and can also appear as blisters in the mouth or a rash throughout the body, including the arms and legs.

Eugene Izsak, MD, medical director for ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital’s emergency center, shares answers to common questions about the disease.

How does it spread?

One of the biggest culprits of hand, foot and mouth disease is saliva. It can be passed through sneezes and coughs, but mostly by saliva. The virus is usually spread due to unclean hands after changing diapers or using the restroom. (Click here to ensure your child is watching his/her hands properly!) Also, if a child with the disease picks up a toy, puts it in their mouth or touches it with slobbery or unclean hands, another child may get the virus if they pick it up and put their mouth on it.

How do I know if my child has it?

The virus starts with a fever and you’ll soon sees blisters in the back of your child’s throat. You’ll then see a rash and not just on the child’s hands and feet, but in other areas throughout the entire body.

How long does it last?

If your child is exposed to the disease, they won’t get sick for five to seven days, which is called the incubation period. Once the symptoms start, the virus will have to run its course which can take a week to ten days. After the rash is gone, they are no longer contagious.

What type of treatment is there?

Treatment varies, but is typically symptomatic, meaning it is used to relieve symptoms. Antibiotics are not used to treat hand, foot and mouth disease because it is a viral disease. Tylenol and Motrin may be used to address discomfort and fever and cold foods such as popsicles, ice chips and ice cream are good, too.

How can I avoid the chances of my child getting this?

Good hand washing is a must! Also avoid sharing cups and spoons and clean toys often.

Can adults get it too?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is primarily a pediatric illness, but we’re seeing older kids and parents getting it. Generally, it’s a pediatric condition.

Find more articles on children’s health.