Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease: Usually for Kids, but Not Always

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 In Viruses

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease: Usually for Kids, but Not Always

Coxsackie Virus Spreads Like Wild Fire

Suppose, one evening, your baby has a mild fever, fussiness, and no appetite. While checking on her during the night, you’re surprised to see red spots on the sides and bottoms of her feet. Later, blisters spread to her hands, then mouth and perhaps other areas. Your baby may have Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD).

Who Gets Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?

It’s most common in infants and young children, because they haven’t developed the immunity to it yet. But teenagers and adults get it too. For example, this month alone, HFMD has been reported in New Jersey high schools, Florida State University and a Texas military base.

HFMD is particularly common in the Fall, when kids go back to school or day care. But it also crops up in the Spring and Summer.

What Causes Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?

It’s caused by a virus. HFMD can be caused by several coxsackie viruses and entero viruses. In the U.S., the coxsackie virus A16 most commonly causes the illness.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms may appear in stages. Also, not everyone will have all the symptoms. Some even have no symptoms, but can still pass the virus to others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Reduced appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Feeling of being unwell
  • Painful sores in the mouth that usually begin as flat red spots
  • Rash of flat red spots that may blister on the hands, feet, and sometimes the knees, elbows, buttocks, etc.
Is It Contagious?

Yes, it’s very contagious. The CDC states that people with HFMD are most contagious during the first week of their illness. However, they may sometimes remain contagious for weeks after symptoms go away.

It’s spread through:
  • Kissing, hugging and close contact
  • Sharing cups, water bottles and utensils
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Blister fluid
  • Feces (i.e., changing a diaper or being in a swimming pool where an infected child had a bowel movement)
  • Touching toys, door knobs, shopping carts, etc. that have the virus on their surfaces
Can You Get It More than Once?

Unfortunately, it’s possible to get HFMD more than once. When someone gets HFMD, they develop immunity to the specific virus that caused their infection. However, because HFMD can be caused by several different viruses, people can get the disease again, according to the CDC.

Is It Preventable or Treatable?

There’s no vaccine or treatment for HFMD. The illness caused by a coxsackie virus is usually not serious. It usually runs it’s course while treating the fever and pain symptoms and drinking plenty of fluids. However, it’s best to consult with your doctor to rule out a more serious illness. And HFMD caused by other viruses could potentially (though rarely) become serious.

The best way to prevent transmission of HFMD is to wash hands frequently with soap and water, disinfect surfaces and avoid close contact with infected persons. Once infected with HFMD, stay home from school, day care or work until your doctor or school policy says you become unlikely to transmit it to others.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth/about/transmission.html

http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HandFootMouthDisease/index.html

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