What is hand, foot and mouth disease? 7… - Wyoming Medical Center

What is hand, foot and mouth disease? 7 questions with Cassie Amadio, F.N.P.

By Cassie Amadio, F.N.P. Jun 21, 2016

Examples of hand, foot and mouth disease rashes on the feet (photo by MidgleyDJ) and mouth (photo by Ngufra) of children.

A recent outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) around Casper has people wondering what exactly it is. Not to be confused with foot and mouth disease (or hoof and mouth disease) which infects livestock, HFMD is an infectious illness that can spread among young children. Large outbreaks are rare in the United States.

Here, Cassie Amadio, a family nurse practitioner at Immediate Care, answers seven common questions about hand, foot and mouth disease.

1. What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral infection caused from the Enterovirus genus of virus. In the United States, it is most commonly caused by the Coxsackievirus A virus.

Children are most susceptible, but adults can get this virus also. This illness is more prevalent in the summer and fall seasons.

2. What are the symptoms?

The period between exposure of an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms – or the incubation period – is usually three to five days. Symptoms include:

  • Fever, usually less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Throat or mouth pain.
  • Refusal to eat in non-verbal children.
  • Rash, usually small red spots, bumps or blisters. These are usually in the mouth and on the hands and feet. Occasionally the rash will be on the genitals or buttocks.
  • Occasional symptoms of fussiness, abdominal pain, nausea/emesis and diarrhea prior to break-out of rash.

3. How is it spread?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of the infected individual. The virus can be found in:

  • saliva
  • nasal drainage
  • fluid from the blisters/sores
  • traces of stool

4. How is it treated?

There is no specific antiviral medication to treat HFMD. Primarily, treatment is supportive care including hydration, pain management and rest.

It may be painful for children with HFMD to swallow, but it is important that they get enough fluids. Over-the-counter medication, including numbing mouthwashes and sprays, may help relieve the pain and fever. Consult with your healthcare provider if you have questions about these kinds of medications.

5. How long is someone contagious with HFMD?

People with HFMD are most likely to spread the infection during the first week of their illness, but the virus can live in their body for weeks or even months after the symptoms have gone away.

6. Do children need to stay home to avoid spreading the disease?

For children who go to daycare or school, they should stay home and avoid direct contact with others until they have been symptom free and without a fever for 24 hours.

7. Can HFMD be prevented?

Many infectious diseases, including HFMD, can be prevented through good personal hygiene. Do this through:

  • Practicing good hand-washing technique with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom.
  • Avoiding hugging and kissing infected people, and not sharing eating utensils or drinking cups.
  • Cleaning dirty surfaces with disinfectant and washing soiled clothing and bedding.