Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease as the School Year Carries On
Posted on 11/30/2023
Blog thumbnail for hand foot mouth news blog

New notebooks, fresh colored pencils, chilly mornings…. Sick kids. A new school year is an exciting transition in the home, but this often means children are exposed to a new wealth of germs amongst their peers. Sniffles and coughs are very common and find good company with other common skin infections. One of these skin infections is known as Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD). Though it has an intimidating name, it is much more common than many realize.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is caused by a virus that is spread through person-to-person contact via: 

    • Nose and throat secretions like saliva, drool and nasal mucus 
    • Other routes include the virus’s presence in the fluid from blisters and feces

As it is often difficult to manage children’s hygiene and hand washing, it spreads very fast within groups of children. This illness is very contagious, but typically mild.

Symptoms can include:  

    • Fever
    • Decreased appetite
    • Sore throat
    • Fatigue
    • Increased drooling
    • Painful mouth sores
    • A rash that may appear on the hands and feet.
      •  This rash is usually not itchy and appears as small red spots that may blister.
      •  The rash can also appear on the buttocks, legs and arms. 

Since HFMD is normally mild, it’s not necessary to exclude children from school or childcare unless: 

    • They have a fever.
    • Uncontrolled drooling with mouth sores.
    •  Or they feel poorly and can’t participate in classroom activities.

There is no medication to cure HFMD, but symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter medications.

There is typically no need to find medical care unless: 

    • Your child is not eating or drinking normally and there is a risk of dehydration.
    • A fever lasts more than 3 days.
    •  Symptoms to not improve after 10 days.
    • The child has a weakened immune system.
    • The symptoms are severe.
    • If the child is younger than 6 months old. 

As with most illnesses, the best prevention is to wash hands for at least 20 seconds with warm soap and water. If handwashing facilities are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good substitute. When managing a group of children, handwashing skills should be emphasized often.

    wash your hands guide from the CDC

A good rule of thumb is to always wash after: 

    • Changing diapers 
    • Using the toilet 
    • Blowing your nose 
    • Coughing, sneezing or caring for those that are sick.  
    • Avoid touching eyes, noses and mouths as well.

Know when to wash your hands graphic guide to knowing when to wash

To aid in preventing the spread, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and shared items like doorknobs and toys is essential. If you are able, first wash items with soap and water, then disinfect them with a solution of chlorine bleach (made by mixing 1 tablespoon of bleach with 4 cups of water) or a cleaning product that contains bleach. If you are unable to use bleach or bleach-containing products, wipe down all surfaces that the infected child has contact with using disinfecting wipes or cleansers that contain greater than 60% alcohol.
how to use hand sanitizer the right way - a graphic guide

If you want more information on HFMD, visit the
CDC website or contact a staff member at Benton Franklin Health District.