Toddlers High Risk for Hand, Foot and Mouth


If you have a child from the age of 1-4, welcome to the summer and the season of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease! This virus affects mostly toddlers, but is not limited to the age group. You ask, “How many body parts? And how are these connected? And isn’t that a livestock infestation?”

Well, the answers are: “Three. Don’t know. And no that’s ‘Hoof and Mouth’ disease, which is unrelated.” So despite what your Great Aunt Eunie tells you, you cannot catch HFM from the petting zoo!

This disease is not bacterial and highly contagious; which means no medications will cure it. You and your family will have to wait it out and treat the painful individual symptoms, to ensure your child will eat, drink and sleep. From presentation of the first symptoms to the end, this condition normally will last 3 days to a week.

Signs & Symptoms:

Small, painful blisters found in the mouth – inside the cheeks, on the tongue, on the gums, in the throat and on the roof of the mouth are typical locations. However, some kids get them on the bottom of their feet and on the palms of their hands. You don’t have to have all three to be diagnosed.

The blisters (depending on the location) typically are red spots on the skin which have a fluid-filled bubble on top; but not all kids get the blisters. Sometimes children just have a rash on their bottom and legs and a sore throat. Other symptoms may be:

Drooling (because it hurts to swallow their saliva)
Refusal of food and drink


If your child won’t eat or drink, it’s time to head to the pediatrician. Dehydration is dangerous for young children, so get medical attention if you are concerned! Since there are no antibiotics that can fix HFM, over-the-counter pain medications and cold foods (like popsicles and ice cream) can relieve or numb the pain. However, check with your doctor if the pain is not resolving and it is interfering with your child drinking, swallowing, or sleeping. If it interferes with breathing, an emergency trip is in order.

There are other pain medications, such as a concoction called “Magic Mouthwash” which can be prescribed by a medical provider. This fabulous topical swish is an antiseptic, numbing agent and anti-acid that relieves mouth pain.

Keep all blisters clean but uncovered; unless one pops and then you can dab on an over-the-counter topical antibiotic cream and cover it with a bandage to prevent an infection. However, not the one’s in the mouth, but the hands or feet.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), if your child has been diagnosed with HFM, he or she “should be kept out of school, swimming pools, and child care settings for the first few days of her illness.” (2010) This is the time when the child is highly contagious.

Don’t forget to be vigilant with proper hand washing after changing diapers, toileting and prior to food preparation. Make sure to use warm soapy water and rub briskly for 15 seconds each wash. If there is an outbreak at daycare, toys should be cleansed with disinfectants often, for this virus can live on objects for several days, being transmitted by fecal matter or saliva.

The AAP recommends calling your pediatrician if “your child complains of neck pain, chest pain, difficulty breathing, listlessness, or lethargy. Also consult your pediatrician if your child’s mouth sores are causing difficulty swallowing, which may lead to dehydration.”

Please remember that this is informational and is not to be substituted for advice from your primary physician.

(This post is repurposed from June 2010.)

Have you survived the summer, escaping this painful disease? I’d love to hear what treatment was suggested. ~ Stacey

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