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Another Reason to Teach Kids Hand-Washing: HFM Disease

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Infections of the Digestive Tract related image Lifestock/PhotoSpin

Hand-washing can help prevent the spread of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), a common contagious viral infection. HFMD can be caused by either the coxsackie virus or enterovirus, which lives in the human digestive tract.

The virus is spread from unwashed hands and surfaces that become contaminated with feces. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that children under the age of five commonly get HFMD, but adults can also come down with symptoms.

HFMD can start with a fever and causes painful blisters in the mouth and throat. The red blisters also have a small bubble of fluid which can then turn into a white ulcer. The soles and palms may also have a red spotted rash or red blisters. Sometimes, a pink rash also appears, usually on the rear or upper legs.

For some kids, the only symptom is the throat sores. CDC reminds parents that a very young child, who is unable to complain about a sore throat, may refuse to drink fluids, and run the risk of dehydration.

While there is no vaccine or other specific treatment for this viral infection, CDC recommends treating the symptoms of a painful sore throat with over-the-counter, non-aspirin, pain relievers. To encourage hydration in a young child, popsicles and cool drinks may go down easier over a sore throat.

While the illness usually last about seven to ten days, always contact your health care practitioner if you are worried about your child’s symptoms.

Besides proper hand-washing after changing diapers or using the bathroom, CDC also recommends several other ways to lower the risk of spreading or becoming infected with hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces and toys is a must. You can also make your own disinfectant solution with the recipe of 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach mixed into 4 cups of water.

Also avoid close contact, like hugging and kissing or sharing utensils and cups with an infected person.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Web. 2, Jan. 2012

The Mayo Clinic. Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease. Web. 2, Jan. 2012.

Reviewed January 3, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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