How to detect hand-foot-and-mouth disease in your child and what to do about it

Rashes are especially tricky because the cause can be very difficult to identify.


From the first rash on their baby’s tiny buttocks, parents are hyper-aware of the slightest reddish bloom on their child’s skin.

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Rashes are especially tricky because the cause can be very difficult to identify. They can come from heat, allergies, bug bites, skin conditions like eczema, or anything else. Caregivers should always see a doctor if they are concerned about a child’s rash.

Viruses can also cause rashes, and one of the most common and contagious is hand, foot, and mouth disease.

While most cases of hands, feet, and mouth go away on their own, here’s what to watch for, compiled with the help of the Health Canada Y Montreal Children’s Hospital websites

What is hand-foot-and-mouth disease?

The name is hard to swallow, and a rare instance of the common name being longer than its medical term: an enterovirus. Hand-foot-and-mouth includes certain coxsackieviruses and enterovirus 71, according to the Canadian Department of Public Health.

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It spreads through coughing and sneezing, close contact with other people, and bodily fluids, so it can pass through a daycare center, day camp, school, or anywhere children are close to each other.

Most hand, foot, and mouth cases occur in the summer and fall. The virus is most likely to appear in children under 10 years of age, but people of any age can get it.

What it looks like and other symptoms

A rash! This rash is more likely to appear on the hands, feet, or buttocks. It causes extra discomfort and difficulty eating and drinking when it appears in the mouth. It can also be found on the knees, elbows or genitals. The rash often looks like small red spots and may have blisters.

It comes with fever, runny nose, headache, loss of appetite, sore throat, and an unpleasant feeling. People may have a single symptom or a mixture of them.

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what to expect

Hand-foot-and-mouth makes itself felt within three to seven days of exposure. There are no medications or vaccines, it is usually mild, and most people feel better within seven to 10 days.

Stay hydrated and get plenty of rest while hand-foot-and-mouth runs its course. Pharmacists can advise on types and doses of over-the-counter medications for relief of symptoms such as fever and aches.

Complications to be aware of

A child will be protected against hand-foot-and-mouth disease after contracting it, but Children’s Dr. Caroline Quach notes on the website that protection is only for this strain of enterovirus. There are over 90 other strains.

People with compromised immune systems or who are pregnant should call their doctor. In rare cases, there could be other reasons to contact a healthcare professional, such as: less frequent urination or other signs of dehydration; frequent vomiting; rapid breathing or shortness of breath; severe sore throat; headache and stiff neck; confusion or being more sleepy than usual.

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how to avoid it

It’s uncomfortable and nobody likes having a sick child. We have learned great lessons from COVID-19 (including that we could get it despite precautions). Sneeze and cough into your elbow, even if it’s masked. Wash your hands often (and correctly). Keep high-traffic surfaces clean. Keep the space of others if possible.

Snot is a carrier – try very hard to keep your finger out of your nose!

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