When Your Child Has Hand Foot and Mouth Disease
Recently the dreaded and very contagious Hand Food and Mouth Disease crept into our home and spread to our youngest child. One minute our three year old daughter was her usual self and a few hours later she was telling us she didn’t feel ‘too good’ and was fast asleep on the living room floor. That was the very start of our experience with Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD).
Progression Of Symptoms
We had a heads up from a family who had visited us while their child had a fever and ended up developing Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. So, it was on the radar but I was still feeling hopeful that we had missed the share of germs.
Three days after being exposed the symptoms started at our home. This is a classic timeline for the spread of this virus but it can be up to six days after exposure. That evening we put her to bed for the night and hoped for the best. A few hours of solid sleep our little girl woke up screaming and holding her head, she had a severe headache and ended up throwing up in bed.
After a dose of acetaminophen for her head pain, she slept like a dream and woke up in the morning feeling okay. The only thing was she now had a fever. Since she was happy I didn’t dose her with anti fever medications and we let the fever do its job.
Stopping The Highly Contagious Virus
Hand Foot and Mouth Disease is contagious once the person develops a fever. If you have a known exposure to someone with HFMD and/or you or your child develops a fever this is your cue to stay home to stop the spread of germs.
After two days of having a fever our daughter woke up with with obvious spots around her mouth and on her tongue. There was nothing on her hands and no spots on her feet. As the spots started coming up her fever had stopped.
This is the point we knew she had Hand Foot and Mouth Disease and continued to keep her quarantined in our bedroom. Over the next 24 hours new spots came up. In the end she had dozens and dozens of the HFMD blisters. She ended up developing more of the spots on her upper back, trunk, groin area and behind her knees.
Her bath towel was not placed with the other children’s towels to prevent spread of the virus through contact. We separated the use of bathrooms while her fever and spots were at their worst as the active virus can be found in bowel movements.
How To Treat HFMD
While there is no cure for HFMD and the virus ultimately has to run its course, the treatment is focused on relieving symptoms and increasing comfort. There is no way for you to speed up recovery. It’s very important to stop the spread of HFMD. This can be done by; increasing your hand washing, staying home when you are sick or have a fever and not sharing food or drinking cups.
We let our daughter hang out in the big bed in our bedroom. There she relaxed with a mixture of watching some shows on the iPad and playing with her favourite toys that’d be easy to clean after. The virus can live on toys and other handled items. Which can spread to the other family members through touch. We dressed her in long sleeved pyjamas and socks to cover up all of her skin and spots to further prevent the spread by contact.
The spots in her mouth caused a lot of pain and distress. She did not want to eat or drink and even popsicles caused her pain. This is very common with HFMD and we found that yogurt drinks worked the absolute best for getting in some calories. The yogurt drinks were cooling and didn’t sting the open sores in her mouth. Some people reported that plain greek yogurt on their skin helped with temporary relief from the burning sensations.
We used soothing oatmeal baths a few times a day helped prevent itchiness and scratching from the blisters. This was very helpful and also helped to keep her occupied and the skin fresh and clean.
Getting Better From Hand Foot and Mouth Diseas
Once her fever finally broke she went back to her happy self. Meanwhile, she still looked terrible from all the big open spots on her lower face and body. Eventually we let her mingle with her siblings but we still kept her at home. She was highly supervised and there was absolutely no touching or sharing of any kind.
Isolation during the fever is very important in order to prevent the spread of HFMD. The virus can spread after the fever through close contact or sharing eating and drinking items.
There is no solid information out there about the exact contagious period of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. This virus is most contagious during the fever and it can be found in stool for several weeks. We kept our daughter home for five days. Once the spots dried up we went back to our daily routine. After a week the spots started to disappear and by two weeks all the spots were completely gone.
By some miracle no one else in our home got the dreaded Hand Foot and Mouth Disease! That felt like a huge success.
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This information is not meant to substitute medical attention or advice from a medical doctor. While I am a Registered Nurse I am writing this post as an experienced mum of three.