Dr. Charles Loveland, a pediatrician in the clinic, said doctors were seeing slightly more cases than usual, and the season is just getting started. Outbreaks most often occur in summer and fall.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5, but it can occur in adults. It has no relationship to foot-and-mouth disease, which affects hoofed animals.
Loveland said the disease is contagious and it’s difficult to prevent spread of infection because it can take three to six days for symptoms to appear. Symptoms can include:
• A fever.
• Small sores in the mouth that often become ulcers. They tend to be in the back of the mouth.
• Rash on palms of hands, soles of feet and on the webs between fingers and toes. The rash has flat or raised red spots sometimes with blisters. The rash also can appear on knees, elbows and buttocks.
Loveland said fever and discomfort are usually gone in three or four days. It takes the mouth ulcers about one week to heal and the rash about 10 days.
There is no vaccine or specific treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease, but there are some things that can be done to relieve symptoms such as:
• Taking over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to relieve pain and fever.
• Consuming a soft diet and avoiding citrus, salty or spicy foods.
• Using mouthwashes or sprays that numb mouth pain.
Kendra Metz, of Eudora, is just recovering from hand, foot and mouth disease along with her husband and their 17-month-old son Owen.
She said Owen had a fever of 102 degrees, blisters in his mouth and a rash on his legs. “He didn’t want to eat or drink much of anything so it was hard to keep him hydrated,” she said.
As Owen started to heal, his parents caught the illness and they had the classic symptoms: fever, blisters in mouth, and rash on their hands and feet. She said the blisters on the palms of her hands and on the bottoms of her feet were the most painful. It was hard for her to do simple tasks like pick up her son and drive. She said she couldn’t go barefoot; she had to wear socks and shoes for cushioning.
“For about three days, it felt like I was walking on little pieces of glass everywhere,” she said. “It was painful.”
Metz said her son goes to a child care provider who has just two other children and they had the illness about six months ago. She’s not sure where they picked it up, but said she’s heard from other mothers that it’s pretty prevalent.
“There’s a lot of hype about it among mothers groups,” she said.
Shirley Grubbs, nurse and communicable disease team leader for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, said the hand, foot, and mouth disease can be spread by coming in contact with saliva, nasal mucus, fluid in blisters, and feces from an infected person. It also may be spread when infected persons touch objects, like toys, that are then touched by others.
Grubbs said infected people are most contagious during the first week of illness. However, the viruses that cause the disease can remain in the body for several weeks after symptoms are gone, which means infected people can still pass the infection to others even though may appear well.
She said there’s no definitive answer on when it’s OK for children to return to day care or to participating in public activities like swimming. She recommends that children stay home if they have a fever or they are drooling. Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine doctors say it’s OK to return to day care once the fever is gone.
The most common complication of the disease is dehydration because it may hurt for children to swallow with the blisters. In very rare cases, it can lead to viral meningitis or inflammation of the brain.