How to Deal with Hand Foot & Mouth Disease

How to Deal with Hand Foot & Mouth Disease

This past week we have been dealing with Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease (HFMD).  Somewhere, a week or two again, Chulengo contracted HFMD.  He started to show symptoms the evening we got back from a cross-country trip.  When I began researching HFMD, I wasn’t finding practical resources and recommendations for coping with the infection.  I found all the details of what HFMD was and how to identify HFMD, but nothing that could help me cope with the day to day struggles until Chulengo got better.

DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or the opinions expressed here.

First, what is HFMD?

Hand Foot & Mouth Disease is an infection caused by the Coxsackie virus, which can manifest itself through fever, rash, and ulcers.  Children under ten years old are most susceptible to the disease, but, I have heard of some parents contracting it from their children.

baby playing with toys

How is HFMD contracted?

HFMD spreads through direct contact with an infected individual’s saliva, feces, or pus from open sores.  Objects, such as tabletops, toys, and doorknobs that have come in contact with the infection, can carry the virus.  Young kids are much more susceptible because they tend to put items in their mouths and touch many surfaces.  The incubation period can last up to 10 days.  Meaning, one can have HFMD for 10 days before signs and symptoms show.

Signs & Symptoms

Typical signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • A sore throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ulcers on the tongue and in mouth
  • The feeling of being unwell
  • Irritability
  • Rash around hands, feet, legs, bottom, or face

Chulengo presented with similar symptoms:

Day 1: Chulengo started with a high fever in the middle of the night.  He was fussy and did not sleep well

Day 2: Chulengo would scream when he tried to eat or drink.  Which lead to him refusing to eat

Day 3: Chulengo had a couple of dots on his elbow, thigh, cheek, and tongue.  Continued to have difficulty eating and drinking due to pain.  Fever diminished.  This was when we went to the pediatrician to confirm my suspicions of Hand, Foot, and, Mouth Disease.

Day 4: Chulengo started to eat and drink more regularly

Day 5: Chulengo was back to his normal self.  Rambunctious, curious, and adventurous.  Eating better than he did before he got sick.


Because HFMD is a virus, there is no medication to treat the infection.  It has to run its course but, our doctor recommended a pain reliever if Chulengo needed some relief.

Lessons Learned

  • Hydration is important.   It was challenging to keep Chulengo hydrated when he didn’t want to eat or drink anything
    • We used a medicine syringe to feed milk and water
    • I also let him chew on a clean, wet washcloth
    • Adequately hydrated means three wet diapers in a 24-hour period
  • Foods he was able to eat:
    • Popsicles
    • Plain yogurt
    • Watermelon
    • Broth
    • Sorbet
    • Ice cream
  • Avoid citrus fruits, like oranges, and acidic foods, like tomatoes, which are very uncomfortable with sores in the mouth
  • Be prepared for a nursing strike.  We went through an 8-day strike, which continued even after the sores disappeared from Chulengo’s mouth.  I pumped a couple of times per day and offered the breast as often as possible.  Eventually, Chulengo came back to nursing, and we are back to our normal nursing schedule.
  • Continue to offer soft or liquid-based foods throughout the day; even when it is not a traditional meal or snack time.  The more often you attempt, the more opportunity to get food into little one’s system
  • Cuddles, lots of cuddles.  Chulengo wanted to cuddle all day and night.  For us to get rest, we did have him co-sleep with us.  When he would wake up in pain, we were able to soothe him back to sleep quickly.  I kept our schedule wide open, so we would sit and cuddle without the pressure to get something done
  • Babywearing allowed for me to get little things done around the house while keeping Chulengo calm.  I was able to empty the dishwasher, start a load of laundry, or vacuum while soothing Chulengo.  I also had him facing toward me, which is different than his typical outward facing position.  He seemed to enjoy the closeness of resting on my chest
  • Baths can help soothe the rash.  Adding coconut oil or lavender can calm the rash down
  • Trust your gut.  If you feel like you need to go to the pediatrician’s office, go!

Do you have any other recommendations on dealing with Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease?

Remember, you can read all the material you want on Hand, Foot, &, Mouth Disease, but you know your child best.  Focus on comfort, comfort, comfort.  Life can pause while you focus on helping your little one feel better. Reach out to your pediatrician if things to don’t get better on their own.

Photo Credit: AOH Photography

4 thoughts on “How to Deal with Hand Foot & Mouth Disease”

  • Hi! I am so sorry he and you had to go through that! We’ve done it twice – 4 and 5 years ago with my older. All your same advice . We tried to time ibuprofen before meals so she could eat a little better. And when I caught it from her the second time I found a Benadryl cream (for me) that helped relieve the itching/pain (I hope it’s worse in adults? Yikes it was bad).

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