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Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Another super common finding among little ones, particularly those younger than five years of age. Having six of my own and a few grandkids, goodness they could pass this back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth. It really isn't that serious, but it is certainly contagious. If your little one is in day care or being educated outside the home, know that this little virus spread quickly. It can also lead to impetigo so be aware.


This one is largely spread through respiratory droplets. If they are exposed to a sneeze or cough from someone with HFMD then they are likely to get the virus. It can also be picked up on contaminated surfaces and objects. It's even found in stool.


Little ones with HFMD are usually most contagious during the first week and maybe a few days even after their symptoms go away. Honestly, even without any symptoms, if you have the virus, you can spread it to others, but it is generally very benign. Hand, foot, and mouth disease has even been picked up from drinking swimming water that wasn't properly treated, super rare, but possible.


Normal, Common, Usually Mild Childhood Virus


Whenever you hear virus, also hear no-need-for-antibiotics. Just let your body heal itself, but also know these aren't awful for your immune system. The challenge can be a good workout. The unfortunate thing is because children often feel fine and the lesions aren't always as ominous as those in the picture above, kids go to school and childcare while contagious and pass it around to everyone. When my own children had HDMD, I noticed little bumps first on my young grandsons' mouth, but admittedly didn't think much of it. Then one of my children had a complaint about his mouth and I peeked a the palm of his hand, and had I not been intentionally looking, I never would have appreciated the light, pink dots all over his hands.


In truth though, it is so common that if a fever isn't present, and they aren't drooling from their mouth sores, and want to go to school, send them. Even the CDC supports this. Viruses are part of our life. Most all of us are exposed to HFMD as children and then the risks they pose us in our adult lives are not as concerning (HFMD can cause challenges in early pregnancy if not previously exposed).


For the More Nerdy Bunch


Yep, this is my circle of people. Coxsackievirus A16 is the most common cause of HFMD, but it can also occur from Coxsackievirus A6 or Enterovirus 71 (more so in Asia).


What Moms & Pops Need to Know


If your child has a fever lasting more than three days, give your practitioner a call. If symptoms don't improve after ten days, check in, or certainly do so if your child has a weakened immune system. If you smoke, your child has a weakened immune system, so call your doctor about most things presenting in your children. If symptoms are severe, your child is younger than six months, or if your little one doesn't want to drink or you're worried they are getting dehydrated, give your provider a call.


There really isn't a test we obtain to confirm diagnosis. This is pretty easy to identify for an experienced clinician. Maybe a throat specimen or feces could be sent, but I'd say this is quite rare. The real concern is dehydration. If your little one has pink, wet lips, they are most likely doing fine. Keep encouraging drinks. We often offer popsicles for that added encouragement. Fingernails or toenails may be impacted, even fall off within a few weeks of illness, but I haven't seen this and if it does happen, they'll grow back.


All the things we recommend for immune support can be helpful here, but it is also okay to teach your kids that when we are ill, we can trust our bodies are equipped to heal themselves. Eat well everyday. Get into nature daily. Trust your body can do the work it was designed to do, without the need of giving it additional treatments with every ailment. Be mindful, respond, but trust too.

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