Hand, foot and mouth appearing in Summit child care centers
Ryan Summerlin July 16, 2012
Along with the warmer weather, summer also brings a disease familiar to many in the health and child care industries, but not fully known to parents: hand, foot and mouth disease.
While the name may sound a little intimidating, it’s “scarier than the illness itself,” said Amy Wineland, assistant director of Summit County Public Health. “Knowing the facts about hand, foot and mouth disease definitely will lower parent anxiety when it comes to caring for their child.”
Hand, foot and mouth is a common viral illness that usually occurs in children 5 and under, and tends to pop up locally during summer and fall, Wineland said. Symptoms include fever, sores in the mouth – which may cause a child to refuse food and drink – and rashes on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, and even the buttocks area.
“It begins as small red bumps and can become bumps with blisters, but it doesn’t itch,” Wineland said. “The rash isn’t usually painful, but the sores in the mouth can be.”
The virus is spread through direct or indirect contact with nose and throat secretions, and when an infected person touches surfaces then touched by others.
“It makes sense that we usually find cases in day cares and child cares and preschools, and any place where lots of children are congregating,” Wineland said.
Local Paul Molnar’s 2-year-old son came down with the illness from his day care a little over a week ago. And though it’s most common in children, Molnar later came down with a case of it himself.
“I’m just shocked at how few people have heard of it,” he said. “For some, it’s common knowledge.”
The virus’ incubation period is three to five days, and the illness itself usually lasts seven to 10. Symptoms may vary, with some people not exhibiting any at all, but still spreading the disease. The virus can be present in fecal matter for weeks, Wineland said.
“So it’s a really challenging thing to control in a day care center,” she said. “We would recommend excluding children from child care if they have open sores and they’re drooling because they’re more likely to spread the illness.”
The virus is sometimes confused with foot-and-mouth disease, an illness of cattle, sheep and other barnyard animals, “but it’s unrelated,” Wineland said.
Because the rash and sore mouth may be confused with other illnesses – like strep throat, chicken pox or measles – it’s important to visit a primary care doctor. Going to a doctor can also help prevent rare complications like meningitis.
Since it’s a virus, antibiotics are not effective. But, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be given for fever and achiness; aspirin should not be given to children.
“It’s a mild illness, and it’s nothing to be too concerned about,” Wineland said.