Hand, Foot And Mouth In Children And Babies

September 14, 2023

Hand, Foot And Mouth In Children And Babies

Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common illness among children and babies. It’s not usually a cause for concern, but it can be difficult to see your child feeling unwell. The reason that it’s so common, is that it’s spread via close contact – which is frequent at school and nursery.

This article is going to look at the causes of hand, foot and mouth disease, as well as the symptoms and how to prevent it.

Hand, foot and mouth

What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

HFMD typically affects babies and children, but adults can still catch it as well. The symptoms usually present as sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet, and they can become very uncomfortable.

The symptoms are normally quite mild and don’t require medical attention, but it’s important to keep an eye on the symptoms and seek help if they get worse or don’t improve after 10 days.

What causes hand, foot and mouth?

HFMD is caused by a virus called coxsackievirus 16. This virus is part of a group of viruses called non-polio enteroviruses. Other types of enterovirus can cause HFMD as well.

HFMD can easily be spread from child to child, which is why it’s such a common illness to see. The virus spreads through contact with nose secretions, saliva, blister fluid, stool, and respiratory secretions in the air released by coughing or sneezing of another infected person.

As young children often use their hands and put them into their mouths, it’s easy to see why it’s picked up so often. Young children and babies also need to have their nappies changed frequently. This can increase the risk of contact with the stool of an infected child, leading to them catching HFMD.

The virus can remain in their system for a few weeks after their symptoms have disappeared. So, if children are sent back to school because they feel better – they might unknowingly still be passing the virus on.

Hand, foot and mouth symptoms

There are quite a few symptoms to look out for when checking for HFMD, and not all of them may be present in your child at one time.

Here are some of the most common symptoms:

  • A fever
  • A sore throat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Painful sores on the gums and inside of the mouth
  • A rash on the palms, soles, and buttocks that can sometimes turn into blisters
  • Inability to settle in toddlers and babies
  • Lack of appetite

Typically, children will start to have symptoms within 3 to 6 days of being infected with coxsackievirus 16. It can start with a sore throat and a fever, and then develop into a rash and lack of appetite.

If you’re worried about the symptoms that your child is presenting, make sure you seek medical advice.

Stages of hand, foot and mouth disease

Once a child or baby becomes infected with hand, foot and mouth disease, there will be an incubation period of around 3 to 6 days. This is when symptoms may first appear.

You’ll generally see things like a sore throat and a fever develop in this stage. In babies, this can also look like not wanting to eat and general fussiness.

After their fever begins, the sores may start to appear in their mouth, as well as the commonly seen rash on the hands and feet. Although these symptoms should be relatively mild, they can last a couple of days and make your child feel quite unwell.

When to seek medical help

Despite hand, foot and mouth disease being a minor illness, it’s still best to contact your GP if your child is younger than 6 months old.

Seek medical advice if your child has a weakened immune system or if they’re unable to drink fluids due to the pain of the sores in their mouth – this can lead to dehydration.

If their symptoms last longer than 10 days, speak to your GP or paediatrician as soon as possible.

Is hand, foot and mouth contagious?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is very contagious, and is easily spread about in schools and nurseries.

Once your child has been infected, they can be contagious for a couple of weeks after their symptoms have disappeared. The incubation period can last up to 6 days as well, so you may not even know they’re contagious for nearly a week.

We recommend keeping your child off school or nursery for as long as they’re feeling unwell. Even after you send them back, there is a chance that they could still be contagious – but there’s no way of knowing this for sure.

Hand, foot and mouth vs strep A

HFMD is commonly mistaken for strep A, as it presents with very similar symptoms. If your child complains of a sore throat, your first thought may be strep A – especially with the number of rising cases in the UK.

However, HFMD will turn into a rash on the palms and soles of the feet within a couple of days, and strep A will remain with symptoms mostly in the throat and other symptoms like nausea and vomiting.

There is a rash that appears with strep A, but it’s different to the one you see with HFMD. This rash is rough and can appear anywhere on the body. Whereas the rash of HFMD tends to stick to the hands, feet and buttocks.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is extremely common amongst children – so your child most likely doesn’t have strep A. Knowing the difference between the symptoms can help put your mind at ease.

If you’re ever concerned about your child’s health – don’t hesitate to seek medical advice right away.

Treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease

There isn’t a treatment for hand, foot and mouth, but there are things you can do to ease the symptoms. Unlike other illnesses like strep A, antibiotics can’t be prescribed as they won’t work against the virus.

To help your child recover, make sure you give them plenty of fluids, allow them to rest, and avoid anything acidic as this could worsen the sores in their mouth.

Generally, the illness should clear up on its own within 7-10 days.

How to prevent hand, foot and mouth disease

It is possible to lower the risk of your child catching and passing on hand, foot and mouth disease.

This can be done by encouraging and ensuring regular hand washing with warm water and soap, covering your nose or mouth when sneezing or coughing, and disposing of any used tissues immediately.

Although it can’t be prevented completed, you can help improve your child’s chances of avoiding it.

For more information on hand, foot and mouth disease, get in touch with us here at Childhealthy. We’ll be more than happy to answer any questions and provide you with the paediatric support that you need.




Disclaimer: Information contained in this article is intended as general advice and does not replace a medical assessment. If you are concerned about your child please contact your doctor for advice.


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