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Clinician’s Corner: Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Recently, hand, foot, and mouth disease is on the rise with cases affecting local school districts. I can’t think of a disease that has a more descriptive name than “Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease” abbreviated HFMD.

How it is spread:

Patients with HFMD is most contagious during the first week of illness and be contagious for days or weeks after symptoms go away. Adults, may not develop any symptoms, but they can still spread the virus to others. Everyone especially those with direct contact with children and infants must maintain good hand hygiene so they can minimize their chance of spreading or getting infections. Daycares because of their multiple diapering “events” can see this virus spread quickly through a classroom.

Patient Information

Here’s some useful information about this condition that Karen Quach one of my student pharmacists would like to share. Karen is doing her Rural Pharmacy Rotation, and had the following published in the local newspaper.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common childhood infection most often occurring in confined spaces, such as daycares and schools, in the summer and fall months. It is characterized by small sores that can form in the mouth, and on the hands, feet, buttocks, and genitals. This is the main symptom to look out for, and the sores can appear as small red spots, bumps, or blisters. In addition, some children may present with a mild fever. Although this infection is generally mild, it is highly contagious and may cause pain, including painful swallowing.

The infection itself is not treated and should resolve without medicine within one week. Until then, children should maintain adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration. If needed, over the counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can be used to relieve pain. Cool liquids and foods such as popsicles and ice cream may help to numb the pain.

The virus travels in body fluids, including mucus from the nose, saliva, bowel movements, and fluid from the sores. Therefore, the most important method to prevent spread of infection is proper hygiene. Tips include washing hands frequently with soap and water, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing, properly disposing infected tissues, and disinfecting contaminated surfaces and objects. Additionally, infected children should be kept home when they have symptoms to prevent spread to other children.