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Helping Your Child Cope with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Group of toddlers

If you have a child in day care, you’ve probably heard of hand, foot, and mouth disease.

This common, highly contagious pediatric illness causes a rash, which is often accompanied by a fever and decreased appetite and energy. Despite its name, the rash can appear anywhere on your child’s body, not just the hands, feet or mouth.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by one of a handful of viruses, particularly the Coxsackie (pronounced like it's spelled) virus. The rash appears as flat or slightly raised red spots with a small, fluid-filled bubble.

The rash often appears on the palms/fingers and soles/toes. Fingernails and toenails may appear abnormal or even fall off weeks later. (Don’t worry, they will grow back!) Lesions also can appear in the mouth, causing a very painful sore throat that may affect your child’s unwillingness to eat or drink.

Treating the Coxsackie Virus

Because hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by a virus, there is unfortunately no treatment. The rash likely will last about a week. During this time, it’s important to:

  • Keep your child hydrated.
  • Serve cold liquids and frozen treats like popsicles to help soothe a sore throat and tongue, and prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid giving your child acidic or spicy foods and drinks (like orange juice) that can make mouth sores more painful.

Preventing Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease 

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is contagious as long as your child has a fever and active rash. Once the rash begins to crust over and the fever improves, the virus is “dead” and can no longer be spread.

The virus can remain on surfaces for long periods of time. Toy-sharing is a major way of spreading the virus, particularly in day-care and school settings. Disinfecting toys and surfaces is a good way to lower the risk of infection.

As always, frequent hand-washing, especially before eating, is very important. This simple but often overlooked step is the best way to prevent hand, foot, and mouth disease.

author name

Joan B. Thode, MD

Joan B. Thode, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician with LG Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics.

Education: Undergraduate–Franklin & Marshall College; Medical School–George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Residency–NYU Langone Medical Center.

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About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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