Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease: A Survival Guide for Parents

Our son ate lots of popsicles during Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Coxsackievirus A16, commonly known as Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD), is a virus that typically strikes children under 5 years of age. Symptoms include fever followed by an outbreak of sores on the hands, feet, genital area, buttocks, and mouth.

Speaking from experience, the most difficult part of this illness is the discomfort your child will experience from the sores in his or her mouth. These sores prevented my son from eating and sleeping well for a few days. It was the most miserable I’ve ever seen him — far worse than the colds, ear infection, pink eye, and teething he’s endured.

From the information we gathered online, my wife and I thought we were doing right by giving our son acetaminophen (Tylenol) every four hours. According to most of the stuff I read, there’s nothing you can do except give a child pain medication and wait for the virus to run its course. A quick call to the doctor’s office, however, proved to be extremely valuable. So here are some tips based experience and medical advice received:

  • Motrin (Ibuprofen) is preferable to Tylenol in this case because in addition to reducing fever, it reduces inflammation, which really aids with the throat discomfort
  • A mixed dose of 3/4 teaspoon of Malox and 3/4 teaspoon of Benadryl before eating can help with swallowing
  • Cold liquids provide throat comfort and maintain hydration
  • Normal eating rules do not apply, so keep the child as well fed and hydrated as possible by offering him or her various foods
  • Your child may become an extremely picky eater during this ordeal; keep trying different foods
  • Popsicles, ice cream, yogurt, pudding, milkshakes, milk (with some fat and maybe Carnation Instant Breakfast), and avocados are all foods that can be served cold and help a child maintain a decent caloric intake level
  • Be prepared to comfort you child throughout the night

HFMD is not common in adults; however, my wife was lucky enough to catch it. It was much milder than what our son went through. She had a few bothersome canker-like sores in her mouth (but nothing in her throat) as well as insignificant sores on her hands and feet. She didn’t allow the HFMD to ruin a long weekend trip to Austin, though we did avoid certain cuisines because of the sores in her mouth.