This mild viral disease most commonly seen in children is caused by enterovirus. Hand, foot, and mouth disease may happen in adults as well. It is characterized by sores in the mouth, hands, and legs and usually lasts for a few weeks. The disease is more common during the summer and fall. This disease is not to be confused with the foot and mouth disease in animals, like cattle and sheep.
The virus spreads very easily through coughing and sneezing. The virus is seen in the stool, and may cling to the hands while changing the diaper of the infected child. It is very common to see that these viruses get to the hands of the child when they touch it accidentally and easily spreads when the child puts the hand in the mouth. Virus may also spread through nasal discharge, saliva, and fluid from the blisters. It is a contagious disease and is often found to be very well spread in a community. The virus remains in the child even after the symptoms disappear and can infect other children during this time. Some adults without any obvious symptoms of the infection may pass it on to others. Risk of infection is more in child care centers.
Symptoms start appearing between three and seven days after infection by the virus. The initial symptoms of the disease include tiredness, sore throat and mild fever. This is followed by rashes on the skin that leads to the appearance of blisters in the mouth, hands, and feet. Painful, red colored blisters may be seen in buttocks also. Children may show lack of appetite and irritability during this stage of infection. The blisters then open up and crust over. The signs and symptoms of this infection are generally mild. Medical attention may be required if the blisters are too painful and prevents the child from having eating or drinking fluids. One should contact the doctor if the symptoms worsen.
No specific treatment is available for the treatment of this condition. Simple home treatment like having more cool fluids helps to keep relieves sore throat. Spicy foods and drinks should be totally avoided. Soft foods would make chewing and swallowing easy for children. Do remember to rinse mouth using warm water after the meal. Acetaminophen may be used to control fever while ibuprofen may be used to relieve pain. Topical anesthetic will be helpful in relieving the pain of mouth sores. Dehydration is one of the most common complications associated with this viral infection. Ensure that children are well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.