|Hand foot mouth disease is a common childhood illness that is caused by the coxsackie virus A16 and is most commonly seen in the late summer and early fall. This virus can cause painful blisters to form on your child's hands, on the soles of his feet, and sometimes on his buttocks. Blisters or ulcers that are surrounded by red halos can also form in the back of his mouth and on his tongue, and this is where the name 'hand foot mouth disease' is from.
The blisters of hand foot mouth disease are filled with a clear fluid that contain the coxsackie virus and are very contagious. Symptoms usually develop about three to six days after being exposed to someone else with the illness and last for five to ten days. Other symptoms can include low grade fever, decreased activity and a decreased appetite and usually precede the formation of the ulcers.
It is also possible to have an infection with the coxsackie virus that only causes the ulcers to form in the mouth and not on the hands or feet. This infection is called herpangina.
Like most other viruses, there is no treatment for this infection and your child will get over it on his own. The only treatments are aimed at making your child more comfortable, and can include pain relievers, plenty of fluids, and a mixture of one-half Maalox and one-half Benadryl that can coat the blisters and make them less painful. This mixture is best used as a mouth rinse (although this is difficult in very young children), but you can also apply it to directly to blisters with a cotton-tipped applicator. Be careful not to exceed the recommended dose of Benadryl if your child is swallowing the mixture.
You child with hand foot mouth disease is contagious while he has blisters, but also continues to be contagious for weeks after the blisters go away. While most children only get hand foot mouth disease once, it is possible to get it more than once from a different cosackie virus.