Hand, foot and mouth disease is going around: What to watch for

Published: Sep. 26, 2016 at 12:36 PM EDT
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A contagious viral illness most common in infants and children is going around.

The symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease are hard to miss: rashes or sores on the hands and feet, and sores in or around the mouth.

"You might just see sores on the hands and feet and not so much on the tonsils or in the throat area," explains pediatrician Anatole Karpovs. "Sometimes it's mostly in the throat, but in general, when you see more than one spot with the throat and some sort of combination of the hands and feet, then it's almost always hand, foot, and mouth disease."

It's part of the enterovirus family, and it's spread through saliva, nasal mucus, and stool.

"When children are playing with each other or they cough in close vicinity, they can catch the virus. The virus can get in the saliva from the sores themselves and pass between different children," Dr. Karpovs explains.

He says the first sign of hand, foot, and mouth disease can happen a few days before the sores develop.

"It might just start as fever, pain symptoms, irritability, the children might just act sick, a little less energy, they may be drinking less fluids," Dr. Karpovs says.

That's because drinking or eating can be painful if the child has blisters in the mouth.

Dr. Karpovs says there's no treatment since hand, foot, and mouth is viral, but you can manage the symptoms.

"The best way you can help your child fight it off is by supporting their immune system by keeping them hydrated, especially with lots of water, and treating their fevers. If they have high fevers, giving them fever-reducing medications," Dr. Karpovs explains.

As long as your child has fever or sores, the virus is still contagious. It can take one to two weeks to be in the clear again.

Children usually develop immunity to hand, foot and mouth disease as they get older by building antibodies after exposure to the virus.

Still, some kids get it more than once, and adults can contract it, too.

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