The dreaded email came from preschool on a Friday: “We have
one reported case of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.” By Saturday, my 5-year-old had a fever, sore
throat and headache, plus a serious case of the grumps, since I’d had to cancel
her playdate. I hoped that despite the
warning from school, my daughter simply had a coincidental cold.
The next day, she seemed to have recovered, but it was a
trick—the eye of the storm. That
night, red sores like polka dots broke out, most noticeably on her hands and
feet. My kid described the sores as
itchy and painful, and nothing helped—not lotion, an oatmeal bath or even the hairbrush
I offered out of desperation so she could scratch her feet in bed. We didn’t get her to sleep until 3:30 a.m.
“Classic case of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease,” my
pediatrician proclaimed. She showed me additional sores in my daughter’s mouth,
and even a few on her bottom. “They
really should call it Hand, Foot, Mouth and Butt,” said our doctor. Did I mention she was funny?
If you’re like me, you might have thought Hand, Foot and
Mouth Disease was something livestock gets, but apparently it’s a common viral
infection that occurs most often in children under 10. The bad news is that it’s highly contagious, so
if you have multiple children, they will probably all get it. Our doc told me to watch for drooling and
what looks like a bad diaper rash on my 1-year-old baby. By the next day, she had both.
The good news is that HFMD is not serious, just uncomfortable.
The good news is that HFMD is not serious, just
uncomfortable. My baby didn’t seem as
itchy as her sister, but I could tell the sores in her mouth bothered her. Her appetite decreased and she temporarily
lost interest in nursing, which made her hard to calm when she woke up all
night long. I gave the baby infant ibuprofen
to ease her mouth pain, and offered cold drinks. For my 5-year-old, the doctor recommended
liquid children’s Benadryl, which was the only thing that curbed the itching. Unfortunately,
according to the grouchy patient, “It tastes like garbage.”
Luckily, once someone has had Hand, Foot and Mouth
Disease, they develop an immunity to it and won’t get it again. So if your kids get HFMD, you probably won’t catch
it, because you likely already had it in childhood. Personally, I feel like
I would remember having been decorated with angry polka dots as a kid, but the conventional wisdom
must be true, because I didn’t get sick after tending to my not-very-hygenic kids, and neither
did my husband.
Although the illness lasts 7-10 days, kids are only
contagious until 24 hours after the fever is gone. That meant I could send my 5-year-old back to school fairly quickly and start napping when the baby napped instead of turning to
amphetamines, which was starting to seem like a good idea. I think having two kids alternate being up all night, night after night, is the parental equivalent of torture. I would have confessed to selling state secrets just to close my eyes for five minutes.
Friends have told me that after preschool, kids
get sick a lot less, and I’m looking forward to that. But I’ve also heard to expect another kind of
notice from school: “We have a reported case of lice..."