photo from CDC.gov
“We regularly see outbreaks in spring and summer into fall,” said Paul Hansen, MD, Medical Director of St. Anthony’s Urgent Care. “But this year is worse than the typical year. We keep seeing increasing upticks in the number of cases.”
HFMD is a common viral infection that is spread in a number of ways. First, it can spread through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Other ways to contract the illness include close contact with someone who is infected, coming in contact with a surface that has been touched by someone with the infection, such as a child’s toy or a doorknob, or sharing a drink. The disease is most prevalent in children ages five years and young, but it can affect any one of any age, such as the two Major League Baseball players
who recently contracted the disease.
“Parents are often exposed to this disease by their children, especially when they are changing a dirty diaper,” said Dr. Hansen.
The first symptoms are usually a sore throat and fever for a day or two. That’s followed by a rash or lesions in the back of the throat, palms of the hands, soles of the feet and sometimes on other parts of the body. The rash looks like small red dots, which may turn into small blisters. Sometimes, especially in adults, there may only be rash or blisters the mouth, or there may be no rashes at all.
“If you contract HFMD, you have to let it run its course in about a week,” said Dr. Hansen. “Because it’s viral, antibiotics are ineffective. We can treat the symptoms with an over-the-counter painkiller.
“We do watch for dehydration, especially in younger children. The sores in the mouth can make swallowing painful, so patients may not drink as much water as they need.”
There is no vaccine for HFMD. The key to preventing the disease is good hand-washing. If a child has HFMD, they should not participate in school, camps or any other activities with other people until they are feeling better and the rash is healed. When there is a known outbreak, it might be time to disinfect the kids’ toys and frequently touched surfaces in the home. And, of course, avoid direct contact with someone who is infected.