Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease: What You Need to Know

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Your child is grumpy, has another fever, and isn’t eating well—again. Before you assume it’s just another cold or flu, watch for other symptoms. Your young one may have hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Symptoms: Hand, foot, and mouth disease is common in children younger than age five. At the beginning, your child will most likely have a fever, reduced appetite, and sore throat. One or two days later, he or she may develop painful mouth sores that start as small red spots in the back of the mouth or a rash of blistering red spots on his or her hands, soles, knees, elbows, genitals, or buttocks.

How it spreads: Viruses cause hand, foot, and mouth disease. It spreads through contact with nose, throat, blister fluids, or bowel movements—for example, if you change a diaper and touch your eyes, nose, or mouth before washing your hands. It can also spread by touching contaminated surfaces or breathing air after a sick child coughs or sneezes. Your child will be the most contagious during the first week of illness.

How to help your sick child: Keep your child at home until he or she is well. Hand, foot, and mouth disease is usually mild and resolves within seven to 10 days. There is no specific treatment, but you can help your little one feel more comfortable with medications to reduce pain and fever and lots of liquids to prevent dehydration.

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