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The Gross Thing You Probably Didn't Know About Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Photograph by Twenty20

Hand, foot and mouth disease is one of those common childhood illnesses, ranked up there with chicken pox and lice; it's disgusting and very contagious. Not to mention, it makes your child feel terrible and uncomfortable.

But what lots of parents don't know is that hand, foot and mouth disease isn't just spread easily because of saliva, mucus, coughing, sneezing, boogers or even the fluid in the blisters that can appear with a rash when someone has the disease. The other culprit? Poopy diapers.

Turns out that the virus can be excreted in feces, which means poopy diapers are a liability of sorts when it comes to getting rid of the virus and not passing it around. If your child has HFMD, you should be extra careful while changing their diapers and wash your hands in hot water with soap immediately after. And if your child touches their own feces—even accidentally—wash, wash, wash!

Dirty diapers should go in the outside garbage right away because the virus can actually stay in stool for several months, even after the symptoms of the infection have passed.

The first week of illness is when it's the most contagious, but the incubation period is up to a week before symptoms might show. Adults can also catch the virus and not show symptoms, but still pass it on to others. Sores and blisters, or a rash that can appear on mouth, hands, feet and butts, usually clear up within a week.

The CDC says that in addition to properly cleaning any contaminated objects (including toys) or surfaces, you should be diligent about hand-washing while someone in your house is infected, and even weeks after. Since the virus can live on surfaces, be very careful about touching your eyes, mouth or nose. And obviously, avoid kissing anyone who is infected.

Anyone in your household who gets HFMD should stay home, especially from daycare or school, doctors say, and you should consult your family physician about when it's safe for you to go back to your normal routine.

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