I remember seeing the sign posted on the door of the daycare center my daughter goes to a few weeks ago and not thinking anything of it. It said something like, “We have two cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Educare 1.” That was the smaller class, and I did not worry about it too much as the age groups do not mix and the classes are far apart. As I mentioned yesterday – Mikayla had hand, foot and mouth disease and now my poor little Knox has it – and bad. It is such a terrible illness… pure parenting hell I tell you. Anyway, I am no medical professional, but here are some facts, symptoms and things that are getting us through the day and night. So what exactly is it? I know what you are thinking, isn’t it that thing that animals get? While my kids are little animals in their own way, it is not the same thing. Animals get something called Hoof and Mouth Disease which affects cattle, sheep, and swine. However, the two diseases are caused by different viruses and are not related. Humans do not get the animal disease, and animals do not get the human disease. Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), or any disease for that matter, can sound frightening to any parent. However, HFMD is actually very common and highly contagious. While anyone can get it, HFMD typically affects infants and children younger than 5 years of age. It is a viral illness and is most commonly caused by a virus called coxsackievirus A16. The Symptoms The fascinating thing about this virus is how different it affects everyone. Mikayla started with high fevers, followed by a sore throat and then sores in her mouth and on her tongue. The last two days she developed a faint rash on her arms, knees and feet. No blisters, and it did not seem to bother her much. The sores in her mouth, however, were quite bad and there were very few things she could eat or drink without crying out in pain. Mikayla was sick for a total of 5 days, and then everything disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. Knox on the other hand could not tell us that he had a sore throat. He started with sky-high temperatures and the sores in his mouth only appeared two days later. The sores were in his mouth, on his tongue and two popped out on his lips. The next symptom (however, I am not 100% sure that it is related) was a rash on his genitals, but not a nappy rash – more like thrush. It was extremely uncomfortable for him and he squirmed and wriggled all the time… I thought the worst was over, but 3 days later the blisters started popping up all over his hands and feet, accompanied by the same fine rash Mikayla had on his arms and legs. Nothing prepared me for those blisters… it really looks scary as all hell. I am not sure whether they are itchy or sore, but they make him very uncomfortable. We are going on day 6 and he still does not really show any signs of getting better, although he is finally sleeping better. For the first three night he woke up every 30-minutes, and my heart broke as I watched him squirm with pain and grab at his mouth. It must be so frustrating to not be able to tell anyone how you are feeling. Seeing as we are still at the blister phase, I cannot tell you what happens next – but I have read that they peel like crazy. Gross. Things You Should Know • There really is nothing that the doctor can do for this virus, it just has to run its course. All you can do is make your child more comfortable and give them something for the pain. I found a combination of Pediatric Panado and Nurofen helped best for pain relief, and Knox seemed to ease up when I rubbed baby powder on the sores (before they became blisters). Now that the blisters have formed I try to keep socks on him to protect his feet, and I am going to try rub some coconut oil on his hands and feet as I have read that it can also relief the itch help with healing. It is important to let them sleep and rest as much as possible. • In general, from the time your child is exposed to the disease, it takes 3-6 days for the initial symptoms to show up. This is called the incubation period. • Eating is pure hell… Stay away from anything with sugar or spices. Scrambled eggs work best as they do not burn the mouth and throat, and Mikayla wanted to drink milk the whole time. Keep your kids hydrated – water is the most important. Mashed banana also seemed to go down okay with Mikayla, but not with Knox. • The virus is most contagious in the days just before your child spikes a high fever. Once you figure out what your child has, everyone in the family will likely have been exposed. Evidently, in the past, this virus would carry a really high fever for several days, with blisters just on the hands and feet. According to our doctor, the virus has mutated to have a fever that only lasts a day or two, but the blisters are showing up all over the body now, not just localized to the hands, feet and mouth. They’re concentrated in those areas, but show all over. • Your child should not go back to daycare or school until their blisters have dried. Apparently the virus is not contagious anymore after your child has gone 24 hours without developing any NEW blisters, but rather be safe than sorry. • It is pretty much spread through any fluid coming out of your child: saliva, poop, coughing, sneezing, fluid from open blisters, etc. The best means of avoiding infection is constant hand washing and disinfecting. • It’s not considered “serious”, but it is pretty miserable. As a working parent, the biggest pain is that your child can’t go to daycare or school for a week to 10 days – luckily I was on leave when the virus was at its worst. • Even though Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease is most common in young children, adults CAN contract it as well. When adults get this illness, they seem to have more severe symptoms than the children. All I cared about was comforting my kids and helping them – so I was not concentrating at all on protecting myself. I have had Knox’s saliva and eating utensils in my mouth and have touched the affected areas countless times… Please Murphy, give me a break. Please don’t let me get this! • Sadly, you can get HFMD more than once. Most of the time, the culprit is either coxsackievirus A16 or enterovirus 71. But other viruses can cause HFMD misery, too. The only real advice I can give you is to trust your intuition – only you really KNOW your child. If you believe your child’s health is at risk, contact your health care provider immediately. Often times all we need is the reassurance that we are doing all that we can to soothe our little ones, and for those sleepless nights – just know it will all be over soon. P.S – If you want to scare your teenage daughter into never getting pregnant, send her over to my house. This is probably the best contraceptive in the world! Have you or your kids had HFMD? Any tips that you would like to share?