Emmett Fulmer was a little over a year old when his mom, Emily, noticed a rash on his shins. Later, after realizing her son was drooling more than usual, she checked his mouth. The same red rash had erupted in his mouth and throat. A quick doctor’s visit confirmed her suspicions, “Hand, foot, and mouth disease had swept through the Parent’s Day Out program where Emmett was enrolled,” says Emily. “The doctor’s office saw about 20 more cases after Emmett. He was patient zero.”
Emily’s experience is not unusual, especially as children return to school. Hand, foot, and mouth (HFM) disease is a highly contagious illness caused by a group of viruses known as enteroviruses It’s most commonly seen in children under 5, and tends to spread rapidly in places like preschools and daycare centers. Jon McCullers, chair of the department of pediatrics at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, says HFM usually starts with diarrhea or a poor appetite, and fever. Many kids (though not all) then get a rash on the soles of their feet, their hands, or in their mouth.
According to McCullers, HFM often occurs in outbreaks because of the highly contagious nature of the virus, which spreads from person to person through saliva, mucus, or stool. “What many parents don’t realize is that those alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not kill enteroviruses,” says McCullers. “Warm water and soap is the way to go.”
McCullers recommends practicing good hygiene at home and in the classroom. That means hand washing before meals and after toileting. “Parents should realize these are unusual viruses. Hand sanitizers kill most bacteria and most cold and flu viruses, but they don’t kill enteroviruses, which cause HFM.” While some sources recommend sanitizing surfaces, McCullers claims that focusing on hand hygiene is much more important. “I recommend focusing on the kids. Most bleach-based cleaners won’t clean enteroviruses on their own. You’re better off sticking with thorough and regular hand washing.”
Despite vigilance, some children will still contract the virus. McCullers says there’s no treatment; HFM must simply run its course. “Treat the fever with Tylenol or ibuprofen, and give ice-cold water or juice for sore throats,” he says. Generally, there is no need to take your child to the emergency room, as long as his symptoms are normal (a fever and rash) and he is urinating regularly. “If parents are concerned,” McCullers says, “they can call their pediatrician and take their child in for a checkup.”
In very rare instances, complications can arise, though McCullers says he only sees a handful of cases like that each year. However, if your child has a fever that does not go down with Tylenol or if your child has a stiff neck or back pain, call your pediatrician immediately. When complications arise, it is important to get treatment as soon as possible.
Sleep, Baby, Sleep
These Soothing Methods Will Help You Get Your ZZZs
We seem to think babies should come with automatic sleep buttons. But as new parents discover (bleary-eyed and grumpy from a lack of sleep), babies often need help finding their rhythm. Some babies are good sleepers, some struggle to get their clock figured out, and some manage to keep everyone up, night after night. But wait, there is hope.
Nationally known pediatrician Harvey Karp, M.D. has released his newest book, The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep, which is chockfull of useful ways to get your child to develop healthy sleep habits. Karp is the go-to guy when it comes to soothing babies and toddlers. In fact, his Happiest Baby on the Block, book, continues to be a top seller and is helping parents everywhere. That’s because his methods work.
Take this to bed tonight — we predict a good night’s rest is in your future.
Common Back-to-School Bugs
Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
Best Protection: Hand washing with warm water and soap to keep bugs from spreading. When your child gets sick, give Tylenol for fever, plenty of fluids, and bed-rest. Call your pediatrician should symptoms persist for more than one week.