Ware, MA (August 3, 2012) - Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, a mild, contagious viral infection common in young children is characterized by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet.
“The virus most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus, can occur at any time of year but is most common in the summer and fall and often the disease breaks out within a community,” said Dr. Richard Gerstein,Chair of Emergency Medicine at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Hand, foot, and mouth disease is spread from person to person by direct contact with the virus through nose and throat secretions such as saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus, fluid in blisters, and stool of infected persons. The viruses may be spread when infected persons touch objects and surfaces that are then touched by others. Infected persons are most contagious during the first week of the illness. The viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease can remain in the body for weeks after a person’s symptoms have gone away. This means that infected people can still pass the infection to others even though they may appear well. Also, some people who are infected and shedding the virus, including most adults, may have no symptoms. Hand, foot, and mouth disease is not transmitted to or from pets or other animals.
“Once exposed to the virus, it usually takes 3 to 6 days for a person to get symptoms,” said Dr. Gerstein. “Hand, foot, and mouth disease usually starts with a fever, poor appetite, a vague feeling of being unwell and a sore throat. A day or two after the fever starts; painful sores usually develop in the mouth. They begin as small red spots that blister and that often become ulcers,” noted Dr. Gerstein. “A skin rash may also develop over 1 to 2 days. The rash has flat or raised red spots, sometimes with blisters. The rash is usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; it may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area. The sores and blisters usually go away in a week or so.”
“Most children who develop hand, foot and mouth disease require little medical attention. It’s a virus that just needs to run its course,” said Gerstein. “If your child has a relatively mild case of this illness, you won't have to do much beyond watching his temperature and making sure he's taking in enough liquids and food. However, dehydration can be a concern if the sores in the mouth become extremely painful, which might make it difficult for a child to eat and drink. If a child refuses to drink, he or she should be examined by a physician and may need IV fluids to keep from becoming dehydrated,” said Dr. Gerstein.
You can reduce your risk of infection from hand-foot-and-mouth disease by washing your hands often and thoroughly, washing and disinfecting toys and other objects that might have germs on them, and trying to avoid infected children.
“Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is common in children but can also occur in adults. Health complications are not common, if you’re not sure that you are dealing with hand foot and mouth disease, your pediatrician or family practitioner can confirm a diagnosis by taking a look ,” said Dr. Gerstein. “As always when in doubt, trust your instincts and call your doctor when your child is sick, especially if you think that your child is ill appearing, if your child's symptoms are worsening, even if he was recently seen by the doctor.”
Dr. Richard Gerstein, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital, joins his team of board certified Emergency Medicine Physicians who proudly provides expert care in the Baystate Mary Lane Hospital Emergency Department. The Emergency Department is open 24 hours per day 7 days a week, providing urgent and emergent care for all medical, surgical and pediatric problems. For more information about Baystate Mary Lane Hospital visit www.baystatehealth.org/bmlh or friend us on Facebook.