Hand, foot and mouth disease may have a funny name, but it is no laughing matter. This common illness named for its distinctive rash on the hands, feet, face, and mouth, has been on the rise as of late with outbreaks on college campuses as well as in daycares and schools. While complications are often rare, hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) can be rather painful for patients and cause a high fever that accompanies a blistering rash. In addition, HFMD is incredibly contagious, so it’s essential to know which symptoms to look for as well as steps you can take for prevention.
HFMD affects both kids and adults
Hand, foot and mouth disease is often seen in young kids, and outbreaks are most frequent in childcare facilities and elementary schools. However, HFMD can affect patients at any age, including older adults who may have weaker immune systems and other conditions that raise the risk for the infection as well as possible complications. Typically, outbreaks of HFMD occur in areas where people are in close quarters, but it’s important to remember that no one is impervious to the virus and that cleanliness is essential to reduce the rate of infection.
Flu season can accelerate the spread of the virus
HFMD is a virus that lives in the intestinal tract, and is spread through coughing and sneezing as well as contact with trace amounts of stool or other bodily fluids that may linger on the skin without proper handwashing. The virus also spreads more easily when individuals are in a weakened state of immune health, making flu season a common time for HFMD to strike. Fortunately, many of the same steps that can be taken to prevent the flu will also prevent HFMD – though unlike the flu, there is no vaccine to protect you from hand, foot mouth disease. Once you have contracted HFMD and start to experience the characteristic rash and fever, the best route of treatment is plenty of rest, hydration, and comfort at home. You’ll also want to avoid contact with other people at school or work by staying home, because HFMD is so contagious.
The virus can be asymptomatic
It is very common for HFMD to spread rapidly through a small community, because the virus is most contagious before symptoms appear. In addition, some people may carry the virus without ever experiencing symptoms, so they don’t even know they are causing other people to become ill. Generally, those with symptoms will feel better in about a week or so without medical intervention, but any severe symptoms or complications should always be evaluated in the ER or an urgent care facility.
If you suspect that you or your child has HFMD, keep the virus contained at home by requesting a video visit with MeMD online rather than going to the doctor’s office. We can help you stay well with 24/7 availability of our board-certified medical team, who can prescribe medications and offer medical advice via webcam on your phone, computer, or tablet.