Tell me about treating hand, foot and mouth disease
November 2, 2016 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Pretty sure my young kids are coming down with hand, foot and mouth. Please share your advice for treatment and prevention from reoccurrences.

Our good friends have HFMD and I'm sure my kids will have it soon. My youngest has small red dots (not blisters) on his stomach. Could this be the start of the blisters? And my throat is starting to feel sore, do you think that's related?
Both kids are vaccinated and have flu shots. I'd love to hear any advice for helping their symptoms if they do get it and how to prevent a loop of reoccurrences, which is what I'm extra afraid of. I'd also just love moral support and advice for keeping flu season not so terrible. "Sickness is coming" ala Game of Thrones has been chanting in my head.
posted by areaperson to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
HFMD for our kids always manifested mainly as a cold with some sores, so there was nothing particularly special about treating the symptoms. The sores never seemed to bother our kids that much, for whatever reason.

Just in general for kids (since depending on age you may not be able to give most medicines) we use vicks vaporub at night on them (feet for younger toddlers, chest for older kids) and it seems to help reliably with congested sleeping.

To prevent reoccurance just practice really good hygiene and keep them out of school/other places with possibly infected persons wherever possible.

Check with your day care, if you have one, to see when the kids are OK to return. Day cares can be very paranoid about this one.
posted by selfnoise at 10:19 AM on November 2, 2016

HFM is a virus, and once you've had it you're immune from recurrence. Unfortunately, there are different strains of the virus, so you might catch one strain one season, and another a different season. You won't have recurrence of the same outbreak, though.

It usually presents with a fever, followed a couple of days later with little sores that look like blisters presenting around the mouth, hands, feet and diaper area. Sometimes it spreads beyond that. You're contagious at the fever stage, so exposure usually happens before you even know what it is. Which is a total bummer.

Treatment is mostly about managing pain if it occurs. The mouth and throat ulcers can be particularly painful, so eating soothing things like popsicles, ice cream, cool yogurt, etc. is usually recommended. Take ibuprofen or similar to manage pain as needed. There is also "magic mouthwash" that some folks swear by. Check with your doctor to ensure it's ok for your people.

Hopefully happy anecdote? My 2 year old daughter was exposed at daycare and she and her friends all got sick within 24 hours. She got the sores, but was otherwise happy as a clam and no one else in the family got sick.
posted by goggie at 10:26 AM on November 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Ok that makes sense if there are different strains. Our friends seem to be getting reinfected with it, but maybe they have something else or were somehow unlucky enough to get different strains back to back.
posted by areaperson at 10:44 AM on November 2, 2016

I'm here to second the wise words above regarding there being several strains of the virus and it being therefore possible to get it more than once, and yes - the blisters start out as little dots. Sometimes the only thing your kid will get is a few little dots and a mild fever maybe. That's what happened to my son.

But YES - it is possible your sore throat is a symptom of your own infection ... and I would leave here a dire warning that HFMD can be really bad for some adults. My son got a few red dots that went away after a day or two. My wife got one red dot. I got the worst sore throat I have ever had and a week of high fever and horrible blisters all over my hands and feet. YMMV. And good luck!
posted by balberth at 11:23 AM on November 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Wash your hands a lot, drink lots of fluids, and don't share silverware/cups/food. My husband got it from our kid by eating her food (at least that's how we think he got it). I did not get it, but I had it as a kid; he never did. You are less likely to get it again if you've had it once, is my understanding, even though there are different strains going around, some worse than others. Just make sure they get enough fluids, can be hard with the sore throat. I think milk can help, as I heard it coats the throat a little. Mine was still nursing when she had it and she mostly just nursed non-stop.

My kiddo was mildly fussy, but not terribly sick, while my husband missed almost a week of work. It is generally worse for adults than kids. Start whatever immune boosting stuff you do for yourself right now, and get some sleep!

sorry. HFM is no fun. :(
posted by john_snow at 1:19 PM on November 2, 2016

Strange; I had always heard that adults didn't get HFM, and I have never gotten sick while any of my kids had it. Hopefully you are similarly lucky!
posted by selfnoise at 1:38 PM on November 2, 2016

I've been doing some reading on another board lately and I was surprised to see that many people strongly advised against giving ibuprofen (motrin) for anything that manifests with blisters. Apparently ibuprofen can cause the blisters to become infected and can make the illness more serious and last longer. So if it happens, skip ibuprofen (the discussions I read focused primarily on chicken pox, but there was some mention of HFM as well).
posted by vignettist at 1:40 PM on November 2, 2016

Most adults don't get it because we've already had it and gotten immunity. But there will be a few adults who didn't get it or didn't develop immunity.
posted by Anne Neville at 2:08 PM on November 2, 2016

My son had it when he was five. He seemed to be fine initially, just low fever. But the blisters inside his mouth and on his lips got so bad we ended up in the ER as he was getting badly dehydrated as his lips sort of caked together over night. They gave him fluids and sent us home. Just saying stay on top of drinking enough, and if this is to painful get medical help. Our system is differnt so the ped actually does house calls so she was the one to send us to the ER.
He only had a rash for a few hours, like between his fingers , never on chest.
posted by 15L06 at 4:06 PM on November 2, 2016

We basically have just treated HFM the same as any cold and sore throat. Some kids get the blisters on their hands and feet really bad; our kids never have. The main thing is to monitor for dehydration. It's ok if a sick kid doesn't really eat much for a few days, but you have to keep the fluids going in. If the kid isn't eating, try to give an oral rehydration solution (pedialyte or half strength Gatorade, which is what my kids prefer). If the kid seems to be in pain, give pain relievers. Give the meds about 30 min before you try to feed the kid, for maximum utility.

Once my son got to the point where he was barely urinating (several hours without a wet diaper) and I literally sat on him and dripped water into his mouth from a medicine syringe while he screamed. But, it worked - he eventually peed and we didn't have to go to the ER and the next day things improved a bit.

Obviously use your judgement as to whether your kid is refusing to drink out of stubbornness and not realizing why it's important to drink despite the pain, versus seriously ill and unable to drink. But the doctor had told us that our options were to figure out how to get fluids into the kid, or he would be hospitalized, and I'm not sorry that we opted to force-hydrate him. We'd have taken him in if the fluid refusal had lasted another day.
posted by telepanda at 5:59 PM on November 2, 2016

Hard to pick best answers because this is all helpful. Thank you!
Telepanda and 15L06, so sorry your kids got so sick. I will definitely watch for dehydration.
posted by areaperson at 6:44 PM on November 2, 2016

Just wanted to second that your main worry should be to prevent yourself from getting it. HFM in kids is usually pretty mild, telepanda's experience notwithstanding (we've had several rounds of HFM with both of our kids and it hardly phased them).

One time I got it and it was among the worst 72 hours in my life: I was so itchy I literally did not sleep the entire time. It's much, much worse in adults.
posted by forza at 7:40 PM on November 2, 2016

I hear you, but I'm a SAHM with a toddler so if I'm going to catch something there's very little hope of preventing it. This morning he coughed in my mouth. And his favorite game is "Show!" where he finds something, licks it or tries to lick it and shouts "show!" while he shoves it as close to my eyes as possible.
posted by areaperson at 6:27 AM on November 3, 2016

Well, just to hammer home that everyone's mileage will vary to an absurd degree, I've gotten HFM from my kids and only differentiated it from an average mild cold by the one spot on my hand. (Which hurt surprisingly much for one stupid little dot, it really gave me a lot more sympathy for my whining children).

I think it mostly boils down to whether you and your kids have been exposed to that strain at some point in the past; if you have it'll be milder and if you haven't it might be worse. My kids have certainly had very mild cases as well as that one really severe one.

The advice I gave above is true of any sore throat, btw - food optional, liquid not. The time my son got so sick I think he had a couple of big sores right on the back of his throat, which was just sort of bad luck. So that was more of a worst-case scenario.

Also, even with a disgusting snotty germbag crawling all over you (I love my disgusting snotty germbags) it's still worth washing your hands frequently and spraying lysol on the doorknobs and sink handles after the kids have gone to bed (so it has time to dry).

Pro tip - don't overlook the toothpaste tube as a source of contamination. I had a friend whose family was passing strep for several cycles amongst themselves despite increasingly stringent infection-control measures, before they identified the toothpaste tube as the thing everybody was touching that wasn't getting cleaned.
posted by telepanda at 7:28 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Quick update for posterity: Both kids did get sick, but it was relatively mild and the small red sores didn't blister or look nearly as painful as our poor neighbor kids' outbreak. My toddler's sores appeared on his palms and actually went away within several hours. I wasn't positive that could even be HFM, but the pediatrician confirmed it. I didn't get sick.
The advice was helpful. And the "disinfect the toothpaste" tip is top notch. Thank you!
posted by areaperson at 5:53 AM on December 21, 2016

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