Chicago Suburban Family

Family Wellness

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease! Oh My!

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By Alexa Bigwire

Not to be confused with hoof and mouth disease, a very nasty disease that affects cattle, Hand, Foot and Mouth is a virus that your toddler or preschooler (and sometimes even older children) may contract this spring. You’ll want to be on the lookout for a variety of symptoms, of which your child may experience some or all. Be prepared for your children to have completely different symptoms.

What exactly is Hand, Foot and Mouth disease?

HFMD is a highly contagious viral illness most prevalent during the spring and fall seasons. HFMD usually affects infants and children younger than five years of age. It has a wide variety of symptoms, including fever, sore throat, vomiting, reduced appetite, sores, and red bumps. The child may have a variety or all symptoms, or may carry and pass the virus with no symptoms at all. There is currently no vaccine to prevent it, and not much that can be done once the child has it, beyond keeping them comfortable and waiting it out.

How serious is Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?

It’s more gross than serious, and the itching can be extremely irritating. HFMD can cause high fever. A large concern for many children is dehydration and not eating if the sores in their mouths and throat hurt too badly. (And in rare cases they can develop some very scary, fatal complications – like brain inflammation, and polio like diseases.)

Less commonly known side effects – a week or two after the virus is gone, your child may lose their fingernails and toenails and they may also have the skin peel off of their hands and feet.

How does it spread?

It is highly contagious and can be passed through mucus, saliva, the blister fluid, and feces. You are most contagious for the first week.

  • close contact, such as kissing hugging, or sharing cups and eating utensils,
  • coughing and sneezing,
  • contact with feces, for example when changing a diaper,
  • contact with blister fluid, and
  • touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them.

How long should your child stay home from school?

  • Follow all fever rules – don’t send them to school within 24 hours of the fever
  • Watch the blisters. If they have oozing blisters that can’t be covered, keep them home
  • For little ones, keep them home until it’s cleared up if that’s possible. There’s no need to infect other children.


  • It’s a virus, and unfortunately, just has to run its course. However, the pain and discomfort can be treated with over the counter, age appropriate fever reducers and pain relievers.
  • Prevent dehydration with plenty of fluids.
  • Ice cream, jello, Popsicles, and so forth are good for sore throats.

Can HFMD be prevented?

To prevent the spread of HFMD, follow the same protocol as you would for preventing flu or any other virus.

  • Wash hands frequently with warm, soapy water
  • Avoid contact with infected people
  • Disinfect surfaces regularly if someone has been sick

Will my child get this more than once?

Very generally speaking, once your child has had HFMD, they should build an immunity. However, there are multiple different strains, and it is possible that your child could become ill again with a different strain.

Visit the CDC for all you could possibly want to know about hand foot and mouth disease!

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