It sounds perfectly horrid: Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Like something Medieval spread by rats in filthy, crowded cities.
Turns out it is very survivable. Not that I’d want to go through it again anytime soon. It’s also very common among kids under 5, almost a rite of passage like Chicken Pox used to be when I was a kid.
HFM is spread “fecal to mouth,” meaning your child comes in contact with an infected person’s poop and picks up the disease. Gross. But unfortunately, fecal matter is all over playgrounds and anywhere children gather. Also, adults can often be carriers while displaying no symptoms themselves.
We first noticed a blister on T’s foot a few weeks ago on a Monday. That night, he had a low-grade fever and woke up screaming and crying many, many times – which is totally unheard of for him, he generally sleeps through the night without a peep. I tried to give him milk, changed his diaper (he still uses one at night), and finally gave him some Tylenol. That did the trick – he collapsed, exhausted.
In the morning, he complained that his feet hurt. He could barely walk. He’d sort of tip-toe around the house moaning. My husband took a look. The soles of T’s feet were covered in red circles that kind of looked like big measles. Same thing on the palms of his hands. I couldn’t see anything in his mouth, but he complained when eating that it hurt.
I went online and the symptoms seemed consistent with what was described by the CDC. Fever, blisters on hands feet and mouth, loss of appetite. Now, please do NOT take this as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor, but I got on the phone with my pediatrician immediately, and here is what she said:
- Don’t bother coming into the doctor’s office. It’s viral. There’s nothing to do but wait it out.
- Push lots of fluids – in any form. The biggest danger is dehydration. So give your kids juice, anything that they like that will keep them drinking.
- Give them children’s Tylenol and Ibuprofen every 4-6 hours or so, rotating one then the other. This is easier on their digestive symptoms. I found the medication was critical – it really helped them feel a lot better.
- To address the lack of appetite and pain in their throats and mouth, give them mushy, mild foods like bananas, soft bread. My doctor said to feed them milkshakes if need be – lots of calories, cool, and easy to swallow!
- Wash everyone’s hands frequently, including your own.
- Try to keep kids’ things separate, and don’t allow them to share plates, sippie cups, etc. I laughed out loud at this one. I have never ever managed to prevent one twin from getting what the other one has.
- Keep them away from other children for a week! They are highly contagious. We took this really seriously, which made for a somewhat challenging week with lots of indoor time and art activities. Luckily, they were low-energy, so that helped.
Sure enough, Z came down with HFMD about two days later than T. He had more complaints about his mouth, but at least we knew what we were dealing with. We toughed it out and felt better by Saturday.
My understanding is that we had a fairly mild case. Do yourself a favor: DO NOT go online and start looking at pictures of HFMD, they are very disconcerting! My kids never looked worse than those pictures I posted above. Also, I have heard of some kids losing their fingernails and toenails – mine never did. We made it through just fine, we really did. It was an exhausting week, but that’s just part of parenting!
Please comment if you have any tips or suggestions for surviving HFMD. Thanks!