Hand, foot and mouth is a contagious viral disease that is caused by the coxsackievirus most commonly and rarely by the other related viruses. It commonly affects children who are less than ten years of age and uncommonly it can be seen in teens and adults. Now children can present with the symptoms about three to seven days after exposure to this virus and the symptoms can include fever, cough and cold, ulcers in the mouth which you can typically see around the second day of the fever. There can be rashes which are raised red spots that you see on the palms and on the soles and these rashes can later blister. Now these rashes can extend all the way up to the elbows and in the lower limbs all the way up to the legs or even the buttocks. It hardly ever is seen in any other part of the body. The child can have a poor appetite and may have difficulty with eating and swallowing, secondary to the pain from the ulcers in the mouth.
Hand, foot, mouth disease is highly contagious and can spread in the following ways. It can spread from person to person via the air droplets from coughing and sneezing of a sick child, by coming in contact with the fluid in the blisters on the hands and feet which contain the virus. The virus is also shared in the stools of an infected child. Now hand, foot, mouth disease is a mild self limiting illness that last up to a week and it is not life threatening. Dehydration may occur as the child may refuse to eat or drink adequate amounts of fluid due to the pain from the mouth ulcers. Very very rarely there could be a brain infection known as encephalitis, hence any child with hand, foot, mouth disease complaining of a headache or a stiff neck needs immediate medical evaluation.
There is no specific treatment for hand, foot, mouth disease. Antibiotics do not work as this is a viral infection. Rest and plenty of fluids to drink is a good idea. Paracetamol or ibuprofen in prescribed doses may be used for the fever or the pain that is caused by the mouth ulcers. Avoid spicy or tangy food that may irritate the mouth ulcers. Offer your child soft cool foods such as yogurt rice, milk shakes, ice creams, etc. Do not force feed.
Keep sick children at home from school and child care centres until the fever has subsided and the fluid in the blisters have fully dried up. Advice kids to cover their nose and mouth while coughing and sneezing and to dispose of the used tissues right away. Thorough hand washing especially after bowel movement or touching the fluid from the blisters is recommended. Avoid siblings and other children at home from sharing drinking cups, dishes and towels.

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