Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease Sounds Worse Than It Is

Julie Ryan Evans

airplaneA suspected case of hand, foot and mouth disease held passengers aboard a plane in Denver for more than an hour Saturday.

On a Frontier flight from Mexico, the crew became aware of a sick 23-month-old child who had a fever and blisters on her feet and hands and in her mouth. Passengers had to remain on board until medical personnel arrived and evaluated the child.

"We knew it was potentially serious when we landed and they wouldn't even extend the jetway out to the plane," a passenger told CNN.

While the thought of any contagious diseases on planes is alarming, if there's one you'd have to be on board for, this one isn't nearly as awful as it sounds.

If your child hasn't had hand, foot and mouth yet, it's likely he may in the future, especially if he spends time around other children. It's a very common and contagious disease among children.

My son had it when he was young, and my 21-month-old daughter just got over it. Hers combined with croup was particularly awful, but in general it's a disease that while uncomfortable, typically isn't all that serious. It's not in the same league as say, whooping cough.

It's caused by a virus that's spread easily between hands and surfaces. It occurs mostly in children under 10, though some adults can be affected.

Telltale signs of infection, according to the CDC, include:

  • The disease usually begins with a fever, poor appetite, malaise (feeling vaguely unwell), and often with a sore throat.
  • One or 2 days after fever onset, painful sores usually develop in the mouth. They begin as small red spots that blister and then often become ulcers. The sores are usually located on the tongue, gums, and inside of the cheeks.
  • A non-itchy skin rash develops over 1–2 days. The rash has flat or raised red spots, sometimes with blisters. The rash is usually located on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; it may also appear on the buttocks and/or genitalia.
  • A person with HFMD may have only the rash or only the mouth sores.

I couldn't even see the blisters in my daughters mouth and there were none on her hands and feet. I would have never known she had it if I hadn't taken her in for her Croup. So it can be hard to spot.

There's no treatment for the disease other than to manage symptoms with fever reducers and the like. And generally there are no complications, except in rare cases. 

And the good news is that while it's possible to get another strain of the virus again, usually once you get it, you have immunity against it and are done with it ... as I'm hoping my son is and doesn't get it from his sister (fingers crossed).

Has your child had hand, foot and mouth disease? What were the symptoms and how long did it last?


Image via Kossy@FINEDAYS/Flickr

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