Hand foot and mouth disease: How to spot and treat the symptoms

Hand foot and mouth disease is a very common childhood illness, though be warned it is incredibly contagious.

While hand foot and mouth disease can look rather nasty, it tends to clear up on its own after about 10 days and you can usually look after your child yourself at home.

This illness is most common in children under 10 years old, but don’t confuse hand foot and mouth disease with ‘foot and mouth’ which is an infection that affects livestock animals like cattle, sheep and pigs.

Hand foot and mouth disease: How to spot and treat the symptoms

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What are the symptoms of hand foot and mouth disease?

A non-itchy rash on your child’s hands and feet (which may turn into painful blisters) and mouth ulcers, often accompanied by a moderate fever (38-39). Your little one could also have cold-like symptoms including a cough and loss of appetite.

What causes hand foot and mouth disease?

Hand foot and mouth disease is an incredibly contagious virus. Usually the coxsackie A virus, sometimes the enterovirus 71 or other types of coxsackie viruses.

How does hand foot and mouth disease spread?

A child is most contagious just before their symptoms appear up until just after they’re feeling better. It can be spread by coughs and sneezes in droplets in the air or on surfaces touched by an infected child.

The virus can live for up to four weeks in the stools of a child with hand foot and mouth, so making sure your little one washes their hands after going to the loo as it’s really important!

What should I do if my child gets hand foot and mouth disease?

Keep them away from other children wherever possible. Lots of nurseries and some schools will refuse entry to children with hand foot and mouth until the rash has completely gone.

Children can remain infectious for about a week after the symptoms first begin. The blisters may last longer, but at this stage they should no longer be contagious.

Hand foot and mouth disease: How to spot and treat the symptoms

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What is the treatment for hand foot and mouth disease?

Hand foot and mouth disease clears up on its own, but it’s worth using a soothing gel or powder from the chemist to help ease the pain of the mouth ulcers and Calpol to help keep a temperature down.

You can also help your child gargle with salt water to cleanse the mouth ulcers and relieve some of the discomfort, but this may not be recommended for small children in case they swallow it.

It’s important to make sure your child doesn’t get dehydrated if they have hand foot and mouth disease.

Children can often stop eating and drinking because their mouths are so sore, if you think this is happening see your GP straight away.

How to soothe a hand, food and mouth disease rash

One of the most painful parts of having hand foot and mouth is the rash and with younger children, it can be hard to watch them suffer if they don’t understand what’s happening.

Here are some home remedies you can knock up to help soothe the rash;

  • An ice lolly, ice chips or ice cream can relieve the sores in your child’s mouth
  • Rinsing the mouth with warm, salt water will soothe mouth ulcers and keep them clean
  • A bath with Epsom salts helps to flush out the toxins – and lavender oil has healing properties
  • Coconut oil is anti-viral, you can rub it directly onto the rash or pop a scoop of it into a bath to soothe their skin
  • Elderberry syrup is known as a great home remedy for fighting infection

GoodtoKnow mum Clair Heath says: ‘When my youngest had it in the summer I just gave her ice poles to help with her mouth’

Hand foot and mouth disease: How to spot and treat the symptoms

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How long does hand foot and mouth disease last for?

Lots of nurseries and some schools will refuse entry to children with hand foot and mouth until the rash has completely gone.

Children can remain infectious for about a week after the symptoms first begin, the blisters may last longer, but at this stage they should no longer be contagious.

Should I take my child to the doctor if they get hand foot and mouth disease?

If your child isn’t drinking enough and you’re worried about dehydration, or the symptoms go on for longer than a week, go and see your GP.

Can hand foot and mouth disease be prevented?

As it’s so contagious, it’s difficult to stop your kids catching hand foot and mouth disease. Avoiding infected children and good personal hygiene are the best way to reduce the risks, but they are no guarantee.

Is it the same as foot and mouth disease?

No, it’s totally different. Foot and mouth disease affects cattle, not people, and you cannot catch hand foot and mouth disease from an animal with foot and mouth disease.