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What is Hand, Foot, and Mouth in Kids?

by | Oct 3, 2023

Hand, foot, and mouth may sound like a silly name for a medical condition, but for kids who come down with it, it’s certainly no fun.

HFMD is a highly contagious illness that’s common in children 5 and under, although adults can catch it, too. By itself, the disease isn’t usually serious, and most kids will recover within 7 to 10 days.

Still, any illness that makes your little ones uncomfortable is definitely worth checking out. Here, we’ll talk about what the disease actually is, the tell-tale symptoms to keep an eye out for, and how to best treat the condition.

What Is HFMD Anyway, and What Causes It?

The name gives it away: HFMD is a viral infection from the coxsackievirus that causes breakouts of painful sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and soles of the feet.

Hand, foot, and mouth in kids is contagious, especially for children who are in daycare, pre-K, or grade school. Just being around other children makes it pretty easy for your kid to come in contact with the virus. 

Avoiding close proximity to people who have been infected—as well as regularly washing hands with soap and water and covering their mouths when sneezing or coughing—can prevent catching the illness.

But how will you know if they do? That leads us to…

Symptoms of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease 

How do you know if your child has hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Note that many of these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, so to be sure, visiting urgent care services for kids is recommended.

Symptoms include:

  • Small mouth sores that resemble blisters
  • A rash on the palms and the soles of the feet that may or may not have blisters. The color varies depending on skin tone and can be red, gray, or white.
  • Sore throat
  • Not having a regular appetite
  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Fussiness and discontent in small children
  • Fever
  • Signs of dehydration (darker urine, dry mouth, headache, etc.)

These symptoms will generally onset within 3 to 6 days after exposure. A fever is usually the first sign; sores and rash will emerge a day or two later. Once symptoms appear, the condition typically lasts 7 to 10 days.

How to Treat Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

The best course of action is to treat your child’s pain and discomfort and make it as easy on them as you can while the infection runs its course.

You can do this by:

  • Giving them soft foods and plenty of liquids
  • Using age-appropriate over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications 
  • Applying a topical oral anesthetic to limit pain from the mouth sores

You should definitely see a physician if your child is younger than six months, or if it’s been 10 days and the symptoms continue (or worsen). Also, be very cautious about your child not being able to drink enough liquids; children often don’t want to eat or drink when they’re infected.

Get Tested for Hand, Foot, and Mouth at KidsStreet

Hand, foot, and mouth disease isn’t fun, but with tender loving care, you’ll help your kid make it through. Be sure to visit one of our locations (and register online to cut down on the wait) if you notice symptoms so you can get ahead of the curve—and get your kiddo back to normal ASAP. 

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