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Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease HELL

I remember the first time I saw the sign posted on the door of the daycare door when my daughter was 6 months old.  It said something like, “This classroom has been exposed to Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.”

I was used to signs on the door, but this one stopped me in my tracks.  It sounded a lot like the Foot and Mouth disease that made international headlines years back and caused the slaughter of many pigs and cattle.

I read the sign, learning that Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is totally different from that (phew), but still a nasty virus in its own right.  I watched my daughter for signs, but didn’t think much of it for myself, as the sign had said it was typically a childhood illness.

Then, one day, I was sitting with my sister-in-law at a campsite, and casually mentioned to her how I thought I might have splinters or something, because I had these tiny red spots on my hands.  A few minutes later, I said something like, “I must have eaten a lot of sugar, because I have canker sores all over the inside of my mouth.”

“I think you have Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease,” she told me.  I later found out she was right.  My daughter soon came down with it as well.  I was looking for blisters, but 8 years ago, that instance of the virus caused little pin prick red spots on our hands and feet, and nasty blisters in our mouths.

The virus didn’t do much to my daughter except get her kicked out of daycare for two weeks.   I healed from that instance, and then the next time that sign was on my daughter’s daycare door, I didn’t think much of it again because I thought we had immunity.

Until I got that darn disease AGAIN.  The second time, I got huge, puss filled blisters all over my hands and feet, and the worst sore throat of my life.  I had just started a new job, but couldn’t go to the office for two weeks.  When I returned, my hands peeled for weeks, making me look like a leper.  Do you know how fun it is to meet people at a new job, when everyone wants to shake your hand and your hand is a peeling mess?!

So I’m here today to dispel the myth that Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is something that ONLY strikes kids.  There are a small percentage of the adult population that win the lottery with this virus and get it, too!  Wee!

Anyway, two weeks ago, I got an email from my son’s preschool saying that the school had been exposed to Hand, Foot and Mouth disease.  My immediate response was, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooo!”

We went on with life…  Which included a Fourth of July trip to visit grandparents.  One day during our visit, as we were on an outing, I noticed my son’s eyes glassed over and he was extra clingy.  I felt his forehead and it was on fire.  I took him home and he put himself down for a nap.  That’s when I came and inspected his hands and feet.  I found two blisters on the bottom of his feet and knew exactly what he had.

The fascinating thing about this virus is how different it has been each time it swept through our household.  My son had about 20 blisters the first day, woke up with like 150 the second day, and the third day, he was covered — hundreds of blisters all over his feet, up to his knees, on his genitals and buttocks, on his hands up to his elbows, and inside and outside his mouth.  The kid was MISERABLE.  I became his designated caretaker since I had already been exposed to this virus multiple times, so I worked from home with my poor, blistery boy.  By day 3 after his initial fever, the itching subsided and he was feeling pretty good.  We couldn’t really go anywhere, but I pulled out the jogging stroller (which I had been meaning to give away), as long walks were good for us, and he couldn’t walk on his own because his feet hurt, and he couldn’t ride a bike because of the blisters on his buttocks.

Once the blisters start healing, there is peeling.  My son looks like a snake shedding his skin.  We sit down nightly for me to cut off the dead skin and then slather coconut oil on the healing blisters.  I’ve seen the peeling go on for several weeks.

Things you should know:

  1. The doctor can’t really do anything for this virus.  It has to run its course.  You can just make your child more comfortable.  I found Calamine Lotion helped with the itch of the blisters (doc said NOT to use hydro-cortisone as it would inhibit the immune system’s response), children’s Benadryl can also help with the itch, ibuprofen and a bath of Epsom Salts with some coconut oil in it also worked pretty well.  You might want to call the doctor, but no need to go in and spread these germs to his whole office.
  2. The virus is most contagious in the days just before your child spikes a high fever.  Once you figure out what your child has, everyone in the family will likely have been exposed.  Evidently, in the past, this virus would carry a really high (104 degree) fever for several days, with blisters just on the hands and feet.  According to our pediatrician, the virus in our local area has recently mutated to have a lower fever (my son had 102.3) that only lasts a day or two, but the blisters are showing up all over the body now, not just localized to the hands, feet and mouth.  They’re concentrated in those areas, but show all over.
  3. Daycares and schools won’t allow your child back to school until their blisters have dried.  In my phone conversations with the pediatrician, he said this latest virus isn’t contagious anymore after your child has gone 24 hours without developing any NEW blisters.  This was key for me, as we had a plane trip scheduled 6 days after my son contracted this, and the doc gave us clearance to fly despite the fact that he still had blisters with puss in them.
  4. This virus has been making its way around Reno.  Just in my network of friends, I know of two daycares and one preschool that have had cases in the past month.  The child that brought it to our school thought he had mosquito bites, so I’m hoping that in sharing how I’ve seen the onset of this virus, you’ll be more aware.
  5. It’s hot and it’s water play/pool season…  The virus can be spread via water and in under chlorinated pools.  Being aware of this virus and keeping your child away from water play and pools is a key way to stop the rampant spreading of this virus.  I kept my boy away until his blisters were completely dried just to be safe.
  6. It’s not considered “serious”, but it is pretty miserable.  As a working parent, the biggest pain in the rear is that the child could be kicked out of daycare for a week to 10 days.  When adults do get this illness, they seem to have more severe symptoms than the children.

Disclaimer:  I’m not at all a medical professional, but did do a lot of research on this illness as it swept through our house.  Some additional resources for you are:

Center For Disease Control

Web MD

And, here are some pictures of my poor boy when the blisters were at their peak.  (I found that taking pictures was a good way to monitor if there were new blisters, which is a key indicator of contagiousness).





About Lynnette Bellin

Lynnette Bellin
Lynnette Bellin is the former owner and site manager of the Reno Moms Blog. She is a married mother of a teenage daughter and a highly energetic tween boy. Lynnette moved to Reno in 2001 after choosing to live in a place that she loved for its natural beauty. She has written four children's books, including The Kindness Ninja and a series of three books called Adeline’s Magical Moments Collection. She has been obsessed with blogging since 2002. Lynnette loves to experience outdoor adventures in our area, including skiing, hiking, camping, and open water swimming. She spends her days working from home for a NYC ad agency and shuttling kids to dance, lacrosse and basketball.

One comment

  1. Sadly, the disease is caused by more than one virus and exposure to one does not give any immunity to the others. The difference in symptoms is due, in part, to the different viruses that cause the disease.

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