Baby Foot and Mouth Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Baby Foot and Mouth Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common viral illness that affects infants and children younger than 5 years old. It is often confused with foot and mouth disease (also called hoof and mouth disease) that affects cattle, sheep, and swine. While the names are similar, the two diseases are not the same.

HFMD is caused by viruses from the enterovirus group, most commonly the coxsackievirus A16. It spreads through direct contact with the saliva, nasal mucus, or stool of an infected person. It spreads quickly in childcare centers and preschools due to the close contact children have with each other.

In most cases, HFMD is mild and goes away on its own without medical treatment in 7 to 10 days. However, it is still important to monitor the child closely and contact the doctor if any concerning symptoms develop.

Symptoms of HFMD

The most common symptoms of HFMD include:

  • Painful red blisters in the mouth – often first sign of infection. Blisters usually develop on the tongue, gums, and insides of the cheeks.
  • Rash with red spots, some with blisters on palms of hands, soles of feet, and sometimes buttocks and legs.
  • Low grade fever
  • Sore throat
  • Decreased appetite
  • Irritability in infants and toddlers
  • Headache, body aches in older children

The rash usually develops over 1-2 days after the initial fever and oral blisters. A child is most contagious during the first week of the illness, especially when fever is present and mouth blisters are weeping. Some children may show mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, but they can still transmit the virus.

When to See a Doctor

Contact your pediatrician if your child experiences:

  • High fever over 101°F (38.3°C) for more than 2-3 days
  • Signs of dehydration – decreased urination, dry mouth and tongue, lack of tears when crying
  • Blisters that become widespread, last longer than 10 days or get infected
  • Loss of ability to swallow due to painful mouth blisters
  • Neurological symptoms like weakness, meningitis
  • Difficulty breathing

Diagnosis and Tests

HFMD is often diagnosed from the clinical symptoms. Lab tests are not routinely required. The doctor may take swabs from the blisters or stool sample to identify the specific virus causing the infection.

Images of the rash and locations of blisters help distinguish it from other conditions like chickenpox, impetigo, allergic reactions etc. Blood tests are done only if the child has a high fever for too long or other complications.

Treatment and Care

Currently, there are no antiviral medications to treat the viruses that cause HFMD. Treatment focuses on providing relief from symptoms:

  • Orajel, Anbesol or other oral numbing gels for mouth pain. Avoid spicy, acidic or hard foods. Give cold foods like ice cream or popsicles.
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and body aches.
  • Adequate fluids and soft, nutritious diet. Avoid citrus and salty foods which can be painful.
  • Lukewarm water baths with baking soda or colloidal oatmeal to soothe skin rashes and itching. Keep blisters clean and dry to prevent infection.
  • Rest and comfortable conditions for the child.

Most cases resolve without any specific treatment. Call the doctor immediately if the child has difficulty swallowing or breathing, high unrelenting fever, seizures or other concerning symptoms develop.

Prevention Tips

HFMD spreads rapidly in childcare facilities and preschools. Here are some tips to help prevent infection and transmission:

  • Teach children proper hand hygiene. Have them wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom and before eating.
  • Disinfect toys, surfaces, doorknobs, tabletops etc. regularly.
  • Avoid close contact like kissing, cuddling or sharing food/drink with infected child.
  • Keep sick child home until fever goes away and mouth blisters have healed.
  • Avoid going to childcare centers and public places when symptoms are present.
  • Pregnant women should take precautions when handling an infected child.
  • Get hand, foot and mouth disease vaccine when available.

While HFMD is highly contagious and spreads easily, it resolves on its own without causing any major complications in most healthy children. Practice good hygiene, recognize the symptoms early, and contact your pediatrician if your child develops a high fever, breathing issues or other concerns. With supportive care, your little one can recover quickly and completely from hand, foot and mouth disease.

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