If you have hand, foot and mouth disease, good news: It usually goes away by itself after about a week.
But in the meantime, if you or a loved one isn't feeling fabulous, there are some things you can do to ameliorate the discomfort:
- Use over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen. (Note: Do not give aspirin to any child under the age of 14. Its usage is linked to a rare-but-serious illness called Reye's syndrome.)
- Pick up some oral numbing spray.
- Try sucking on ice cubs, popsicles and anything else cold.
- Stay away from spicy, salty and acidic foods and beverages.
- Rinse with warm saltwater after meals.
As with most illnesses, taking measures to prevent infection is much easier than dealing with the subsequent symptoms. You get the virus from infected people -- who may or may not show symptoms. What to watch out for: contact with saliva, mucus and poop. That may not sound hard to do, except when you remember that this particular virus loves kids, and kids love getting their bodily excretions pretty much everywhere. And, the hand, foot and mouth virus can stick around for weeks, even after the person seems to have recovered completely.
That means we give you free license to wash your hands like Lady Macbeth and disinfect every surface within reach. Be especially careful at child care centers. If you're the one applying antibiotic cream to skin blisters that have burst, wear gloves while you do it.
Absolutely, positively keep kids at home until they're better and stay home from work until you are, too, lest you infect an entire classroom of 4-year-olds -- or an office of adults.
Now, ready to learn more? We have lots more information below.
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC). "Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)." Oct. 13, 2011. (Dec. 5, 2011) http://www.cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth/index.html
- Mayo Clinic. "Hand-foot-and-mouth disease." Aug. 26, 2011. (Dec. 5, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hand-foot-and-mouth-disease/DS00599
- MedlinePlus. "Hand foot mouth disease." Aug. 7, 2011. (Dec. 7, 2011) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000965.htm
- Mersch, John. "Hand Foot and Mouth (HFM) Disease." MedicineNet.com. (Dec. 7, 2011) http://www.medicinenet.com/hand-foot-and-mouth_syndrome/article.htm
- Perlstein, David. "What is the difference between herpangina and hand foot and mouth disease?" MedicineNet.com. Feb. 8, 2011. (Dec. 9, 2011) http://www.medicinenet.com/herpangina/page3.htm
- WebMD. "Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease." April 14, 2011. (Dec. 5, 2011) http://children.webmd.com/tc/hand-foot-and-mouth-disease-topic-overview
- World Health Organization (WHO). "Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)." Nov. 29, 2011. (Dec. 7, 2011) http://www.wpro.who.int/health_topics/hfmd/