Stopping Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease in its Tracks

Simple prevention techniques can stop this virus from spreading

DAYTON, Ohio (April 8, 2019 – In the world of communicable disease, cold and flu prevention often seem to draw the biggest headlines, but there are plenty of other nasty viruses, such as hand, foot, and mouth disease that are just as deserving of the attention.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a highly contagious virus that is more commonly seen in children less than five years old, but it is not uncommon for adults to contract it as well, especially if they are a child’s main caregiver.

“Patients with hand, foot, and mouth disease usually present with a low-grade fever, and generally don’t feel well along with a decreased appetite for food or drink,” said Geetha C. Ambalavanan, MD, a family medicine physician at Fairborn Medical Center. “When we often see them there may be a number of other non-specific symptoms, but two or three days later they start to develop red sores in the mouth, as well as blisters in the palm of their hands and soles of their feet.”

Since the disease is viral, antibiotics don’t help to cure it, so Dr. Ambalavanan recommends primarily treating its different symptoms to alleviate the overall pain and discomfort.  Over-the-counter resources such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce fevers, and popsicles or ice cream can numb the throat and maintain hydration when it may feel too painful to drink. Softer foods, such as yogurt or applesauce, can also help overcome painful swallowing.

However, the best advice Dr. Ambalavanan can give to parents is to consistently take simple preventative steps to limit their exposure to hand, foot, and mouth in the first place.  

“The disease can simply be spread when someone who has it sneezes or coughs and spreads it through the air or on surfaces where droplets can land,” said Dr. Ambalavanan, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “It can also be spread through blister fluids on the hands and feet and also in stool. People who are taking care of kids with hand, foot, and mouth disease need to make sure they wash their hands with soap and water both frequently and thoroughly to prevent spreading it further, especially after a diaper change.  Surfaces such as tables, toys and doorknobs should also be wiped down frequently both in daycare centers and the home.

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