Kids just recently went back to school and sadly, the sicknesses have already begun and are spreading quickly.  My friend’s 5-year old daughter came down with first symptoms of slight fever, one sore in mouth and alittle fatigued.  Next day, a mouth full of sores, buttocks with sores and several sleepless nights.  Here’s some info to help you understand what it is, how to avoid it and options for treatment.

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a viral infection (HFMD /Coxsackie virus) is a highly contagious viral illness common in babies and children especially under the age of 10. HFMD often runs rampant in day cares and schools freaking out parents, caregivers, and teachers with unsightly rash and blisters.

Though not fun, pleasant, or pretty, HFMD is no more serious than a bad cold or flu, usually running its course in about a week to 10 days in otherwise healthy children. While it’s not certain that isolating children can prevent others from contracting HFMD, it is important for a sick child to get lots of rest in order to fully recover and for them to be cared for in an environment sensitive to the child’s needs at this time. Children are often kept away from daycare or school settings while they recover.

 This virus tends to spread among children during summer and early fall. It should not be confused with foot (hoof) and mouth  disease that affects cattle, sheep, and swine.


LOOK FOR …Initial symptoms of mild fever (101  F-102 F) and malaise are followed within  one or two days by a characteristic rash.  Small (2 mm-3 mm) red spots that quickly develop into small blisters  (vesicles) appear on the palms, soles, and oral cavity.  The gums, tongue, and inner cheek are most commonly involved.  The foot lesions may also involve the lower calf region and rarely may appear on the buttocks. Oral lesions are commonly associated with a sore throat and diminished appetite.

HFM is spread person to person by direct contact with the infecting virus most commonly found in the nasal and throat regions but also in the blister fluid or stool of infected individuals.  Infected individuals are most contagious during the first week of their illness. HFM cannot be contracted from pets or animals.

What is the incubation period for hand foot and mouth disease? 

HFM is moderately contagious and spreads from person to person.  It cannot be spread by animals.  Usually the virus is passed via oral secretions (nasal discharge, saliva, etc.) or via stool.  There is a short  four- to six-day incubation period between exposure and development of initial symptoms (fever and malaise).  A person is most contagious during the first week of illness.

When to Seek Medical Care

Any high fever in a very young infant should be evaluated by a health-care  practitioner. For older infants and children, as long as the child has adequate  oral intake, this particular illness can be managed comfortably at home.

There is no specific treatment for hand, foot, and mouth disease. Supportive  care, including fever management, and prevention of dehydration are the primary  goals. Occasionally, “magic mouthwash” is prescribed by the provider. This is a  mix of several oral liquid medications, generally including a topical anesthetic  and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). This is then applied to the mouth ulcers to decrease the pain  associated with the oral lesions, decrease the inflammatory response, and  encourage the affected infant to increase oral intake.

If your child’s fever remains elevated despite appropriate fever-reducing  drugs, or if he/she develops any signs or symptoms of dehydration (dry skin and  mucous membranes, weight loss, persistent irritability, lethargy, or decreased  urine output), you should seek immediate medical attention. Obviously, when  concerned or in doubt, contact your child’s health-care provider.

Due to a similarity in some of its symptoms, hand foot and mouth disease is sometimes confused with strep throat or the chicken pox. However, a physical exam by a doctor, that may also include lab tests for coscackievirus, can help easily differentiate whether or not a child has hand-foot-and-mouth disease.

Teaching children healthy lifestyle options, that include frequent hand washing, can help prevent a child from contracting hand, foot, and mouth disease. It’s especially important that children practice thorough hand washing after bathroom activities as the virus can be contained within fecal matter and may be passed by eating with infected hands or placing hands in the mouth after improper washing.

Because hand, foot, and mouth disease is also present in fomites, it’s important that children not place toys and other objects in their mouths, especially those found at daycare centers and schools that may contain germs likely to lead to HFMD.

The treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease most commonly involves keeping the child well hydrated and assuring that the child has plenty of rest while recovering from the illness. Most children will not have an interest in solid foods when they are recovering from HFMD, so parents are advised to feed them fruit juices and soups during this time. Antibiotics do not help cure hand, foot and mouth disease, but treating the child’s feverish, uncomfortable, and painful symptoms can help as their body fights the virus.

Parents of young children are strongly advised to model and instill methods of healthy living in their children as a preventative measure against things like HFM disease and a variety of other illnesses. By keeping a child’s immune system strong and teaching them preventative health strategies, they are better prepared to avoid contracting harmful illnesses and viruses.

Ways of assuring a healthy lifestyle that builds a strong immune system include:

  • Eight to ten hours of sleep each night
  • Daily exercise
  • Daily doses of sunshine and fresh air
  • Eating fruits and vegetables high in vitamins and minerals
  • Avoiding processed foods, junk food, and fast food
  • Avoiding foods prepared with processed sugars or artificial sweeteners
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Avoiding eating or drinking after others 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, not washing hands often generates a high likelihood of infection with germs by touching your eyes, mouth, or nose after touching an infected object.

While it is not guaranteed that opting for a healthy lifestyle will prevent a child from ever getting hand, foot and mouth disease, overall it helps children build a stronger resistance towards illness in general, thus greatly decreasing the chances of contracting HFMD and decreasing the recovery time should they ever become sick. It’s nearly impossible for a child to grasp the practices detailed above, however, unless the child sees it practiced by everyone in the child’s home. Therefore, it is crucial to a child’s health that the adults and other children in the home are aware of the dangers that result from poor health and unhealthy practices and choose, instead, to make changes and adjustments towards more preventative and holistic health.

While western treatment is palliative, holistic medicine offers remedies to not only soothe symptoms but also to reduce the likelihood of infection and speed the course of healing in those who contract HFMD.

How to prevent it?

Avoid close contact with infected persons and their infected belongings such as soiled tissues. Wash hands thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom. Follow standard wellness routine for cold/flu including Vitamin D, C, and anti-viral herbs such as echinacea and astragalus or your favorite Chinese herbal formula. Speak to your practitioner to insure you’re using effective measures for your family.

How to treat it?

Hydration is key with any fever (small sips of water, ice chips, or natural popsicles), and otherwise you want to keep the infected child as comfortable as possible so he/she can rest. Don’t worry if your child is not hungry while sick. Offer simple cooked foods such as broth, toast, or rice during the recovery phase. Avoid acidic foods that may irritate any mouth sores.

Western approach:

Only symptomatic treatments are available: You may reduce fever and discomfort with over-the-counter pain relievers but never aspirin and avoid acetaminophen, instead opt for ibuprofen. Mouthwashes or sprays that numb pain can be used to lessen mouth pain.

Holistic approach:

  • Calendula and myrrh tinctures will speed the healing of mouth sores. Use as a mouthwash or swab onto sores using a cotton swab.
  • Homeopathic Mercurius is the standard remedy for HFMD. Choose others if needed for specific symptoms.
  • Chinese herbs can help soothe the symptoms while speeding the rate of recovery. Ask your practitioner for a custom formula to address the specific symptoms your child is experiencing including sore throat, fever, fatigue, rash, and sores.
  • Disclaimer

    While I am a health practitioner, I am not your health practitioner. Any health advice that I give is my opinion based on my general professional experience but not your specific case. As such, you should always seek the advice of your own health professionals before acting on something that I have published or recommended.

    Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods or supplements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are therefore not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

    You should also note that although many of the links out of my site are purely for informational purposes. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

    You are advised to do your own due diligence when it comes to making decisions about and all information, products, services that have been provided should be independently verified by your own qualified professionals. By reading this blog, you agree that my company and myself are not responsible for your health or the health of your dependents.