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The Facts about Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old. Typical symptoms include fever, mouth sores, and a skin rash, and children can get exposed to the virus through close personal contact such as hugging, breathing in air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or by touching contaminated objects and surfaces.

There is no specific treatment for hand, foot, and mouth disease, so your pediatrician may recommend over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever. Just remember that children should not be given aspirin, so talk to their doctor about which medications are best for their age. It’s also extremely important that children stay home from school or daycare for the duration of the illness; if you’re not sure if your child is ready to go back to school, check with their doctor first.

At this time there is no vaccine to protect against hand, foot, and mouth disease, so it’s very important to follow proper hygiene practices to lower your risk of contracting the disease:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water
  • Disinfect dirty surfaces and soiled items
  • Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with infected people

Hand, foot, and mouth disease can sometimes occur in older children and adults, so parents, siblings, and teachers should take the proper precautions as well. Parents should also make sure that their child is able to drink enough fluids, as sometimes the mouth sores make swallowing very painful.

If you have questions or concerns about hand, foot, and mouth disease, don’t hesitate to call your child’s pediatrician to discuss prevention and/or treatment.

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