Summer is prime time for hand, foot and mouth disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common illness that typically affects infants and children under the age of ten.

The most common trait of hand, foot and mouth is a blistering rash that forms on the hands, feet, and inside the mouth.

According to Frank Esper, M.D., an infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, despite the alarming appearance of the blistering rash, the disease usually comes and goes within a week or so.

“Generally when we see a lot of children with hand, foot and mouth disease, they will have a fever, and a lot of pain from the sores, but for the most part, the sores go away in about seven to ten days and people do pretty well after that.”

Dr. Esper said the disease is most often caused by a strain of the Coxsackie virus, which tends to be more common during the summer months.

Children often pick up the virus after spending time near other children at places like daycares, summer camps and swimming pools.

And while the disease typically impacts children, Dr. Esper said anyone can get it at any age.

There is no medication to treat hand, foot, and mouth, but he said most cases resolve on their own with rest and plenty of fluids.

However, Dr. Esper said the disease is dangerous for very young babies because they can become dehydrated easily. It can also cause serious complications for those with compromised immune systems.

“We have to watch very young children – if they have a lot of fever and a lot of sores – if they stop drinking, sometimes they need to come into the hospital to get IV fluids,” he said.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is highly contagious and is spread through touch, so Dr. Esper said proper hand hygiene is the key to prevention.

“The best thing that you can do, because hand, foot and mouth is spread by contact, is to always make sure you wash your hands,” he said. “Washing your hands is the best way to prevent against hand, foot and mouth disease as well as other types of infections.”

If a person becomes infected with hand, foot and mouth disease, it’s best to keep them away from others, especially children and places where it can be spread until the fever is gone and the blisters have disappeared.

Dr. Esper said unfortunately, just because someone has had hand, foot and mouth disease once, it doesn’t mean they can’t get it again – because the disease is caused by different strains of the same virus.