Foot and mouth. Normally when I hear those words, I think of those embarrassing situations where something is said that shouldn’t have been, you know, ‘Open mouth, insert foot’. But at Student Health, when foot and mouth is mentioned, it’s more likely to be due to Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. And lately, we’ve it’s been mentioned a few times.
Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease is a viral illness that’s typically associated with young children, but can occur in adults. The disease starts gradually with a fever, sore throat, poor appetite, and just not feeling well. After a couple of days painful sores develop in the mouth. A skin rash may also develop on the palms or soles of the feet. In some cases fingernail or toenail loss may occur. (These do regrow without requiring medical treatment.)
This is a contagious disease that is spread through close person-to-person contact, saliva, fluid from blisters, stool, and respiratory droplets in the air after a cough or sneeze. Pretty much the same way as most viruses.
The best way to avoid getting Hand, Foot, and Mouth is to wash your hands often with soap and water, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and avoid close contact with someone who is infected.
If you do become ill with the disease, treatment includes:
- Plenty of fluids
- Over the counter medications to relieve fever and pain
- Mouthwashes or sprays that numb the mouth
To aid with the discomfort of mouth sores:
- Suck on popsicles or ice chips
- Drink cold beverages
- Avoid acidic foods and beverages such as citrus, fruit drink, and soda
- Avoid salty and spicy foods
- Rinse your mouth with warm water after meals
If your symptoms worsen or just don’t seem to get better after a couple days, seek medical treatment.
Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.
Reviewed by Mary Lynn Kiacz, M.D.