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Hand, Foot & Mouth is Going Around

Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease (HFMD) is more prominent in the summer and fall, which is why many cases are popping up in Wake County right now. HFMD is a common childhood illness but can also be found in adults. The disease is wrought with uncomfortable symptoms and has no medicinal treatment; however several types of supportive therapy are recommended. Dr. Joanne Fruth of WakeMed Physician Practices – Accent Urgent Care in Cary shares more about this illness.

Signs & Symptoms
HFMD is a virus that typically begins with a mild sore throat and high fever, 101 to 103 degrees. One to two days later, sores will appear in the mouth as well as blisters on the hands and/or feet, and sometimes on the buttocks as well. Blisters can also appear around the mouth or on the arms and legs. Symptoms last for about one week. When the sores and blisters disappear, a person is no longer contagious. Dehydration can also be a concern for infants who find it difficult to drink breast milk or formula with painful sores in the mouth.

Because it is a coxsackievirus, HFMD is transmitted via saliva or droplets created by coughing and sneezing. It is also transmitted via the stool, which makes it common within daycare centers due to diaper changes.

The blisters that come from HFMD are also teeming with virus. They are not contagious through skin-to-skin contact, but liquid from within the blisters are infectious via the mouth, nose and eyes.

Supportive Treatment
While there is no medicinal treatment for HFMD, supportive treatment is recommended, such as:

  • Tylenol® and Motrin® (never give a child aspirin for a viral illness)
  • Cool foods such as pudding and Jell-O®.  Sometimes cold foods like popsicles can irritate the sores in the mouth.
  • Gum-numbing gels for infants
  • Adults can even swish with Maalox® or Mylanta®.

When to See the Doctor

  • If you wish to receive a definitive diagnosis
  • If your child is exhibiting signs of lethargy and seems unengaged or is not interacting as he or she usually does (i.e. not smiling back at you)
  • If you have concerns that your child is dehydrated.  This can be detected when there is a decrease in oral intake of fluids, dry mouth, sunken eyes and lethargy.  Additionally, if a baby has less than three wet diapers per day, he or she very likely could be dehydrated and may require IV fluids.
  • If you have other concerns that need medical attention, never hesitate to see your doctor.

Hand washing with warm, soapy water is always key to prevention of illness. Scrub hands together while singing “Happy Birthday” twice for effective cleaning. Additionally, avoid as much contact as possible with other children or adults who are sick with the virus, and keep sick children out of daycare or school.

While HFMD can be extremely uncomfortable, people experience different degrees of symptoms. Some can have very mild symptoms, some more extreme. Unfortunately, you can get HFMD more than once since there is more than one virus that causes it.  However, you won’t get sick with the same strain twice. Hang in there – it should be gone in a week.

Located in Raleigh and Cary, WakeMed Physician Practices – Accent Urgent Care sees adults and children of all ages and is open seven days a week. Learn more here.