FORT LEE, Va. – Late-summer incidents of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease are not uncommon among children under 10 years of age.
It is a communicable infection, meaning it can easily be passed from one youngster to another, and an outbreak tends to spawn rumors of a possible epidemic, but there is really no need to panic. This disease is actually a seasonal expectation. Adult or adolescent infections are rare, but not unusual when it does occur.
This is a disease parents and child care providers should all know about for two reasons. First, is recognizing it when it does happen and dealing with it appropriately, and second, preventing the spread of the infection to others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also categorizes Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease as a common viral illness that occurs around the world, anytime, but more often in the summer and early autumn. It usually affects infants and children younger than 10 years of age. However, it can sometimes occur in older kids and adults. It usually starts with a fever, reduced appetite, sore throat and a feeling of being unwell.
One or two days after the fever starts, painful sores can develop in the mouth. They usually begin as small red spots, often in the back toward the throat, that blister and become painful. A skin rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet also may develop as flat, red spots, sometimes with blisters.
Not everyone will get all of these symptoms. Some people, especially adults, may become infected and show no signs at all, but they can still pass the virus to others. Most people will have mild illness or no symptoms at all. But a small proportion of cases can be more severe. You should seek medical care in these cases.
HFMD is caused by viruses found in an infected person’s:
• Nose and throat secretions
• Blister fluid
• Feces (poop)
HFMD is transmitted by exposure to these viruses through:
• Close personal contact, such as hugging an infected person
• The air when an infected person coughs or sneezes
• Contact with feces, such as changing diapers of an infected person, then touching eyes, nose or mouth before washing hands
• Contact with contaminated objects and surfaces, like touching a doorknob that has viruses on it, then touching eyes, mouth or nose before washing hands
There is no vaccine for HFMD. Individuals can lower their risk of being infected by doing the following:
• Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and soiled items, including toys
• Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with HFMD-infected people
There is no specific treatment for the disease. Individuals concerned about symptoms should contact their health care provider.
Generally, a person with HFMD is most contagious during the first week of illness. People should stay home while sick with HFMD. Talk with your healthcare provider if uncertain when you should return to work or school. The same applies to children returning to daycare.
To learn more about HFMD, visit www.cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth.