Spooky Season: The Haunting of Hand Foot Mouth Disease
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Oh, fall. ‘Tis the season for flannels, hot coffee and Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFM). Wait- what?
You heard me! This common childhood ailment tends to peak in the early fall months and spreads like cracker crumbs in a freshly detailed crossover. Not only is it lurking on every seemingly innocent playground, but it’s also absurdly contagious. Thankfully, HFM is generally unproblematic; but what it lacks in pediatric concern, it makes up for in discomfort and distress. Welcome to spooky season y’all, where toddler Tartarus is just one lick of a contaminated toy away!
HFM starts off looking like a common cold but quickly progresses into something more complex. You can expect to see a sudden fever, a mouthful of painful blisters, and finally, an itchy rash on their extremities and bottom. If you suspect your child may have HFM, it’s a good idea to pay your pediatrician a visit to confirm the diagnosis and rule out HSV-1. While it’s always wise to follow up with a doctor anytime a high fever is involved, don’t foolishly foresee any magic bullets in your future. Because HFM is viral, your physician won’t be able to provide much more than a sympathetic smile, and the dreaded words: you have to ride it out.
The biggest concern with HFM is generally dehydration. Because your baby’s mouth will be burning with blisters for several days, getting down fluids might become a battle. With that being said, now might be a good time to temporarily abandon your nutritional convictions. Offer your toddler anything they’re willing to drink (see also: sugar.) If they’re still compliant enough to drink milk or water, that’s great! But if your options come down to IV fluids at the ER or copious amounts of fruit juice, it’s time to embrace your inner Chiquita Banana.
Between the sweltering fever and open mouth-sores, your kid probably won’t be too keen to eat, but it’s still important to keep offering. Try soft foods that are low in sodium and acids to prevent further irritating their painful palate. Mashed potatoes, pudding, popsicles, and milkshakes are all excellent options. Again, the goal isn’t optimal nutrition; it’s to get something in their belly to prevent hunger pangs from compounding with their other unpleasant symptoms.
Although your pediatrician likely won’t prescribe anything, they might make some over-the-counter suggestions regarding pain management. Of course, there’s always Tylenol or Motrin (or the delicate dance of alternating both if you get desperate.) But there is also another mismatched concoction which goes by the nickname “Magic Mouthwash.” This mystical blend of children’s Benadryl and Mylanta can be used to coat the inside of your child’s mouth, providing a temporary numbing effect. I don’t know who came up with this, or how sleep-deprived and despondent they must have been, but it freaking works. Although instructions on how to make Magic Mouthwash can be found across the internet, it’s imperative that you run it by your pediatrician and get their blessing before proceeding. More than likely, they will suggest it themselves.
Sike! Sorry mama, but it’s not happening. Try again next week.
HFM comes on hard and fast, but luckily, it passes just as quickly. Just hang tight, and soon, your toddler will be immune to one of the many strains of HFM. That’s right; because there are multiple mutations of the virus, your child might contract HFM again in the future. Talk about haunting. Happy Halloween!