In the past two weeks, I’ve seen three cases of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) at Doctors Express in Timonium. This may not indicate an outbreak, but it does tell me that the disease is present in Baltimore County and possibly spreading among our children.
HFMD is a contagious viral illness that usually affects kids under 5 but can occur in older children and adults.
Symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease:
- Sore throat
- Mouth sores
- Skin rash
The sickness usually starts with a fever and sore throat, followed by painful sores in the back of the mouth. A skin rash, featuring raised or flat, red spots may appear a day or two later. Sometimes the spots have blisters. Usually they show up on the hands and feet but may also be found on elbows, knees, buttocks or genital areas. Some patients experience all the symptoms. Others only have the mouth sores or skin rash.
You can catch the disease by coming in direct contact with the virus that causes HFMD, which is found in the nose and throat secretions, fluid in blisters and stool of infected people. The virus can also be spread from surfaces touched by a sufferer.
Although those infected are most contagious during the first week of the illness, the virus can remain in the body for weeks after the symptoms have disappeared, making it possible for carriers to continue passing it to others. The disease, however, is not transmitted to or from animals.
To lower your risk:
- Wash hands frequently.
- Disinfect surfaces and toys.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has HFMD.
There is no vaccine for HFMD and no specific treatment. Over-the-counter pain relievers and mouthwash or numbing sprays can be effective in alleviating symptoms.
Several different infections may cause mouth sores and rashes, so if you have symptoms, see a doctor right away.