As a parent to a toddler I have experienced my fair share of illnesses, everything from the common cold to pink eye and OFTEN. It seems like Asher gets sick every other month or so and the next thing I know he has a snot river running down his face. Well none of that prepared me for Hand, Mouth and Foot Disease (HMFD).
On a play date Asher came in contact with his little friend who was running a fever due to teething (or so was thought) and 2-3 days later he was burning up with a fever of his own. I wasn’t too concerned, bc he was still running around full of energy. He was a hot baby, but he didn’t seem like a sick one. Well, the next day, I got a text from my friend telling me her son had HMFD and immediately I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I grabbed Asher, pinned him down, and while he screamed in protest I shone a light into his mouth and was aghast to discover that the entire roof of his mouth was COVERED in blisters (I didn’t get any pictures, but if you’re really curious, a quick google image search will do the trick). A trip to the pediatrician confirmed that he did in fact have HMFD. There was nothing to do, but give him medicine for the pain, keep him hydrated and to wait.
It was awful. I felt like I was losing my mind. The poor guy couldn’t eat, would barely drink and would sleep so badly it was like having a new-born again. I resolved myself to giving him pain medicine every 3 hours, alternating between Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen, all through the day and night. I made him popsicles that he could suck on, I let him have apple juice, I made sure everything was ice-cold and I would let him eat anything he wanted, which was only bread. And yet, he seemed that he felt little relief. The medicine was keeping his fever down but his mouth and throat were in such pain that he was drooling like a faucet because it was too painful to swallow. He would wake up from naps howling in pain and shoving his hand into his mouth. I was helpless. His feet and hands and bottom broke out in tiny red dots that I felt sure would turn into blisters of their own, but thankfully only a few did.
After 5 days he finally slept through the night again and many of the blisters in his mouth had gone away. He was finally getting back to his high energy, fun-loving self again. Except, Raf was now 2-3 days into having it himself. The only saving grace, was that at least I didn’t come down with it too!
HMFD is a highly contagious illness that is caused by a few different viruses. It presents as a fever accompanied by blisters or a red rash in the mouth, on the hands and feet and sometimes on the buttocks. Once you get it, it is unlikely that will ever get it again, UNLESS you either contract is from a different virus than the one you got originally or the virus hides in your cells and resurfaces from time to time (which is extremely rare). The vast majority of people only get it once and it primarily affects children under 5, but adults can get it if they haven’t been exposed to it before. Full recovery usually takes 7-10 days with the first week being when a person is most contagious. It primarily spreads through coming in contact with bodily secretions (saliva, nasal mucus, blister fluid, stool) of an infected person and the virus can live in and be transmitted via the stool for a few weeks after the symptoms have gone away, so extra care needs to be taken when changing soiled diapers. Everyone exposed should be washing their hands often and thoroughly to help prevent the spread of the virus. The main concern is making sure that anyone infected stays hydrated, which can be especially hard in young children, who may refuse to drink anything. So get creative, popsicles, ice cream, sorbet, jello, pudding, juice, whatever it takes.
Lastly, HMFD can affect everyone differently. Some children get blisters all over their hands and feet, yet their mouths hardly have any (if this is your child, count yourself lucky), which generally means they have an easier time eating and drinking. Other children have the blisters concentrated in their mouths. While still others may have a nasty breakout on their bottoms as well.