Hand + Foot + Mouth

image source: cartoonstock

Equals disease. Wait, what? Can you get it by putting your hand or foot in your mouth? Foot in mouth? GROSS. No, no, no. Let me clarify: Hand, food, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a viral contagious illness that commonly affects infants and children. Most cases of HFMD appear in the spring, summer, and fall. Just like its name, HFMD affects the hand, food, and mouth. An infected person  could have a rash, mouth sores, a combination of symptoms, or none at all. Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • poor appetite
  • malaise (fancy term for “feeling vaguely unwell”)
  • sore throat
  • painful sores in the mouth
  • skin rash with flat or raised spots on the palms of hands and sole of feet and sometime on the buttocks (rash may blister, but won’t itch)

Anyone can get HFMD. Once a person gets HFMD, he or she develops immunity to the specific virus that caused the infection. But there’s a catch! You can still get the disease if you’re infected by a different HFMD-causing virus. These viruses can be found in an infected person’s nose and throat secretions (saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus), blister fluid, or feces. HFMD spreads from an infected person to others through:

  • close personal contact (kissing and hugging)
  • the air by coughing and sneezing
  • contact with feces
  • touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for HFMD, but over-the-counter fever reducers/pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can be taken. Also, you should also drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. HFMD usually isn’t serious. In fact, most patients recover in 7 to 10 days without medical treatment. Though complications are not common, a person with HFMD can develop viral meningitis, polio-like paralysis, or encephalitis (brain inflammation) (CDC). Since there isn’t a vaccine to prevent HFMD, it’s important to reduce your risk of getting the disease. The best offense is a good defense.

  • Wash your hands. Seriously, clean hands save lives.
  • Thoroughly clean objects and surfaces that may be contaminated with a HFMD-causing virus. Invest in Clorox wipes.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are infected. That means no hugging or kissing your HFMD-infected boyfriend or girlfriend.

And just in case you were wondering, hand, foot, and mouth disease is NOT the same as foot-and-mouth disease. Foot-and-mouth (aka hoof-and-mouth) disease affects cattle, sheep, and swine and is not a threat to human health. For more info on foot-and-mouth disease, visit USDA: Animal and Plan Inspection Service.


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