What You Need to Know about Hand-Foot-and-Mouth

Viruses happen. We are so aware of it here at High Hopes Inclusive Preschool. There are many wonderful benefits to bringing your child to an environment that they share with their peers all day, every day! But we know that one of the drawbacks is how easily contagious bugs can spread around. Hey, these kiddos are still building their immune systems, right? So we thought it might be a good idea to share some of the signs, symptoms, common misconceptions, and prevention tips for a few of the most common illnesses that can spread in schools. One of the grossest is hand-foot-and-mouth disease. So What Exactly Is It?

Well, hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a viral illness belonging to the Enterovirus genus. That’s the same family of viruses that brought us polioviruses, all the variations of the coxsackieviruses, echo viruses, and other enteroviruses.

Specifically, Coxsackievirus A16 is the one most commonly associated with outbreaks of hand-foot-and-mouth in the United States. Enterovirus 71 is a guilty culprit too. But of course, this is a viral illness like the common cold, so it’s always changing, always mutating, and multitudinous fun versions of the virus now exist for us to contract! Yay! Signs & Symptoms The very earliest signs of hand-foot-and-mouth will show up one or two days before that characteristic rash that’s so noticeable. The early signs are more subtle, harder to spot. The most common early sign of hand-foot-and-mouth is a fever, usually pretty high. In addition to the fever, children with hand-foot-and-mouth may have a sore throat and a reduced appetite. They might be irritable, or they might experience malaise, which is a fancy word for when you’re feeling bleugh. At this stage, when most cases of hand-foot-and-mouth are not even noticeable, the disease is already contagious. After a couple of days, the fever fades, and the sores begin. Painful sores will start in the back of the mouth. This is sometimes called herpangina, and it can be a symptom of other viruses beyond hand-foot-and-mouth. Hand-foot-and-mouth sores will look similar to cold sores, but they can blister or become ulcers too. Soon the sores will move to the tongue, gums, and the insides of the cheeks. In many cases, they also appear outside the mouth on the chin, lips, and surrounding areas. It’s important to remember that these mouth sores, though they look like chicken pox or a rash, are not itchy. They are painful. This means that children, especially younger ones, are at a risk for dehydration. The sores can make sucking and swallowing hurt a lot. Children may even drool more than usual just to avoid swallowing. If your little one is affected by hand-foot-and-mouth, it’s a good idea to stay on top of their intake of fluids to avoid these risks.