Understanding Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease
A common childhood viral infection, hand-foot-and-mouth disease mainly affects children, but can also be contracted by adults of all ages. While it is generally a mild illness, its characteristic symptoms of tiny blisters on the palms of hands and the soles of the feet can be a worrisome sight. However, as Dr. Caroline Quach, Infectious Disease Specialist at The Montreal Children’s Hospital explains, there is no need to panic.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is usually caused by a Coxsackievirus A16, which belongs to the Enterovirus family. Other members of the Enterovirus family may also cause hand-foot-and-mouth disease. The Enterovirus family includes over 90 different types of viruses that cause frequent illness in infants and children. The most common manifestation is fever alone. They can also cause sore throats with respiratory symptoms, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, viral meningitis, gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis, and infection of the heart. Most outbreaks occur during the summer and fall. “As is the case with many other viruses, a child will develop protection against the disease once he or she has contracted it, but only for this particular virus. As there are over 90 types, similar symptoms may occur more than once,” Dr. Quach explains.
Some infections can be asymptomatic. In other cases, the following signs may be present:
- A rash (vesicles or pustules) may also occur on the hands and fingers, the soles of the feet and buttocks. Most vesicles will disappear in about one week.
- Blisters may also form in the mouth, making it sometimes difficult for a child to eat or drink.
- Common cold symptoms may also be present, and can include fever, sore throat, runny nose and cough.
- Symptoms may vary; in some children all symptoms may be present, while others will only exhibit one or two.
Incubation and contagion periods:
Children and adults may contract the virus in the following ways:
- By direct contact
- Indirect contact (by touching surfaces that have been infected)
There is no vaccine or treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease, says Dr. Quach, who recommends letting the virus run its course.