Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease (HFMD): What Every New Parent Should Know


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This week, I happened to read a post on Facebook from a mom, warning other parents about crowded places like indoor playgrounds. It turns out that the mom’s young kid contracted hand, foot & mouth disease (HFMD) after a trip to the playhouse.

Admittedly, I had never thought about this disease but then I realized it’s something that can possibly happen to our boy, especially since he frequents indoor playhouses. I was only thinking of him possibly catching the flu but not this. Thankfully, I found the Facebook post, which reminded me that something like HFMD exists.

Madelyn Bercasio Gurango took to Facebook to share her son’s story of how he may have contracted hand, foot & mouth disease. She took her son to the pediatrician for his monthly visit and was happy that he no longer had the flu. She decided to reward him by giving him a haircut and bringing him to the mall to play.

The next day, while at work, the mother was informed that her son is having a fever recorded at 39 C. The next day, he was feeling a bit better, except that the mom noticed rashes starting to appear from her son’s feet, up to the hands and then the mouth. She immediately rushed her boy to the hospital where the doctor told her that his son has HFMD.

What is HFMD?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a contagious viral illness commonly affecting infants and children below five years old. Adults and older children can get it as well; basically, anyone can get this disease but those who are below 10 years old are most susceptible. Just as described by the mother in the post, HFMD usually starts with a fever, sore throat, reduced appetite and a general feeling of being unwell.

A day or two following the onset of fever, the patient can develop sores in the mouth. Skin rashes, characterized by red spots (sometimes with blisters), found on the soles of the feet and the palm of the hands, may also develop after a day or two. These rashes can also develop on the elbows, knees, genital area and buttocks.

A child is susceptible to hand, foot, and mouth disease

What Causes It and How Is It Spread

Viruses that belong to the Enterovirus group, which includes polioviruses, echoviruses, coxsackieviruses and enteroviruses, cause hand, foot, and mouth disease. The most common cause is the coxsackievirus A16. The virus is spread via contact with an infected person, usually through bodily secretions (sputum, saliva, nasal mucus), fluid in blisters and stool.

Who’s at Risk?

Kids who go to school or daycare, frequent playgrounds or playhouses, and being in close quarters with other kids are most likely to contract the illness, especially when they are playing with an infected kid. As kids mature, their immune system becomes tougher, building immunity against the disease. Still, it’s possible for older kids and adults to catch hand, foot & mouth disease.

When to Call the Doctor

Initial symptoms, except rashes, may resemble that of the flu. But when your child exhibits the following, this would be the time to call the doctor.

  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • sluggish
  • not feeling any better
  • looks dehydrated
  • Seems to get worse

What to Do If Your Child Gets It

Since it’s a viral illness, there’s no specific treatment for HFMD. Also, there is no vaccine that exists for this disease. What parents can do is to give supportive treatment to make their children feel a little better.

Over the counter medications to manage pain and fever are permitted. Be careful not to give children aspirin as this can make matters worse. Patients who develop mouth or throat sores can feel pain when swallowing. Mouthwashes or mouth sprays can be used to numb that pain.


There are simple ways to prevent catching and spreading hand, foot, and mouth disease. Make it a habit of the family to wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially before and after preparing food.

Common areas in your house, as well as items shared by the family, should be disinfected regularly. Your role as a parent is to teach your kids about proper hygiene. Lessen visits to crowded areas, especially if there’s a known case of HFMD near your place.

Source: the CDC

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