Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease (HFM) is an infection that tends to be more common in the spring and summer months. Here’s everything you need to know about this common condition.
1) Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease Is Caused by a Virus.
There are several viruses that can cause the symptoms of HFM. The most common cause of HFM in the U.S. is the Coxsackie virus. Because it’s a viral infection, antibiotics are not an effective form of treatment, since antibiotics only work against bacteria.
2) HFM Causes Several Characteristic Symptoms.
The incubation period (the time from exposure to the virus to the time symptoms is 3-6 days. HFM usually starts with a fever, decreased appetite and decreased energy. A day or two after the fever begins, the characteristic HFM rash appears, causing small bumps or blisters in the mouth, on the buttocks, on the palms of the hands and/or on the soles of the feet.
3) HFM is More Common in Children Under 5 Years Old.
HFM is much more common in children than adults. Children under 5 years of age are more susceptible to HFM since they’re often in close contact with other children, and their immune systems are less mature than older children.
4) HFM is Highly Contagious.
Unfortunately, HFM is highly contagious. The virus can be spread through nasal secretions, saliva, feces and respiratory droplets that are expelled when someone with HFM coughs or sneezes. HFM can also be spread through contact with contaminated objects.
5) HFM Can Cause Serious Complications.
In older children and adults, HFM usually resolves within 7-10 days without causing any complications. However, small children are more likely to suffer complications. They can develop dehydration because the mouth and throat sores make it painful to eat or drink, and because the fever causes water to evaporate more rapidly from the skin surface.
Rarely, HFM can also result in viral meningitis or encephalitis. So if you or your child has symptoms of HFM, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.
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