School Age • May 24, 2012

Spike in hand, foot and mouth

Doctors in our emergency room say they’ve seen a steep rise in cases of hand, foot and mouth disease, a viral infection that causes mouth ulcers and tiny blisters on the hands and feet. It is an often painful, yet harmless rash that can be treated at home.

It mainly occurs in children ages 6 months to 4 years, and the rash is usually accompanied by a low-grade fever. There can be blisters in the mouth (especially on the tongue and sides of mouth), as well as on the palms, soles and webs between the fingers and toes. Children can develop this disease more than once because it is caused by various viruses.

Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help control pain. Also, small amounts of liquid antacid applied to the front of the mouth four times a day after meals has shown some benefit. Soft foods may help decrease pain in the mouth, while citrus, salty and spicy foods tend to aggravate the sores. Additionally, consider feeding an infant using a cup instead of a bottle during the illness, because the bottle nipples can cause pain.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is quite contagious. The time between exposure and the onset of symptoms is three to six days. Children can return to school or daycare after the fever is gone.

The fever should resolve within two to three days. The mouth ulcers should resolve within seven days. The rash on the hands and feet may last up to 10 days.

Caregivers should call the doctor if the child has:

• Signs of dehydration (i.e. child refusing to drink, no urination, weak or limp)

• Red, swollen, tender gums

• Sores on the outer lips

• Fever for more than three days