Hand foot mouth rash is a symptom of a contagious illness known as hand-foot-and-mouth disease. It is a mild type of viral infection that is prevalent in young children and usually caused by a coxsackievirus. The rash typically appears on the feet and hands. Patients may also suffer from oral sores.
There is no standard treatment for the disease or the accompanying hand foot mouth rash. Practicing good hygiene and educating the child about cleanliness can help decrease the susceptibility to hand-foot-and-mouth disease/infection.
Hand foot mouth rash is reddish rash that affects the soles of feet and the palms of the hand. It may also occasionally occur on the buttocks. The rash is usually non-itchy, but may elicit blistering in some cases.
Additional signs and symptoms associated with hand-foot-and-mouth disease which may accompany a case of hand foot mouth rash are listed below:
- Sore throat
- Appearance of reddish, painful, blistery lesions on the inner wall of the cheeks, the gums, and tongue.
- Reduced or absent appetite
- Malaise or general feelings of being ill
- Toddlers and infants may elicit increased irritability
The incubation period, i.e., the time from when the infection first occurs till the onset of symptoms, is typically 3 to 5 days. In most cases, the first sign of the disease is fever, then a sore throat as well as malaise and appetite loss on occasions. Oral sores may develop a couple of days after the onset of fever. The hand foot mouth rash eventually forms a day or 2 later.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease can cause many different health complications which vary from mild to severe, as listed below:
- Children may scratch the hand foot mouth rash to alleviate the itching. This can cause the skin to tear open and result in an open wound. Such skin injuries are then susceptible to secondary infections by bacteria and other pathogens.
- Occurrence of painful sores in the throat and mouth can result in swallowing and speaking problems.
- Dehydration is one of the most common symptoms accompanying hand foot mouth rash. It is therefore essential to ensure that the affected child drinks sufficient amounts of fluids. Severe dehydration may need to be treated via intravenous administration of fluids.
- Infection by a rare type of coxsackievirus can affect the brain and cause serious health complications like encephalitis or viral meningitis. Encephalitis is a rare, but serious and deadly disease marked by inflammation of the brain. Viral meningitis is also rare; it causes inflammation of the meninges, i.e., brain membranes, as well as of the cerebrospinal fluid which surrounds the spinal cord and the brain.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is commonly caused due to infection by the virus called coxsackievirus A16. It belongs to the non-polio enteroviruses family of viruses. Sometimes, hand foot mouth rash and the disease may also occur due to infection by other kinds of enteroviruses.
The coxsackievirus usually gains entry into the body through the mouth resulting in the infection and occurrence of hand-foot-and-mouth disease. The infection spreads via direct contact with an infected individual, in the following ways:
- Throat discharge or nasal secretions
- From fluid occurring in blisters
- Respiratory droplets which gets released into the air during sneezing or coughing.
Hand foot mouth rash and the disease is quite prevalent in child care centers due to the fact that these places are home to potty training and constant diaper changes. Children tend to put their hands in their mouths, which eventually causes the infection.
In regions with temperate climates like the US, hand-foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks are more prevalent in autumn and summer seasons. Outbreaks in tropical regions are common throughout the year.
A child with hand-foot-and-mouth disease is most contagious during the 1st 7 days of the disease. However, even after the symptoms have abated, the virus can remain in the body of the child for many weeks. Thus, the child becomes a carrier of the virus and can pass it on to other children.
Some individuals, especially adults, may be carriers of the virus but may not elicit any symptoms. They can also pass on the infection to others. It may be noted that most adults have antibodies to counter the effects of the virus. Hence, they are immune to the disease and do not elicit the symptoms.
Teenagers, adults, as well as children who have not developed immunity to the condition may be at risk to developing hand foot mouth rash and other symptoms of the disease.
Treatment of hand foot and mouth rash
There is no standard treatment procedure for hand foot mouth rash. The symptoms of the disease usually clear out on its own after about a week or ten days.
- OTC pain medications may be given to alleviate pain and mild discomfort. Children should not be given aspirin as it carries the risk of Reye’s syndrome development, a life-threatening condition.
- Oral anesthetic creams may be used to find relief from pain caused due to sores in the oral cavity.
- Secondary infections of hand foot mouth rash may be treated with antibiotics.
- Use warm water to rinse the mouth after meals. If the child cannot rinse the mouth without swallowing the water, then swish with warm salt water. This will not only be soothing, but will also help decrease the inflammation and pain in the oral cavity. Repeat the procedure many times a day for better results.
The blisters in the throat, mouth, or tongue may become irritated by some kinds of beverages and foods. Parents may make the following changes to the diet of the affected child to prevent aggravation of the oral soreness.
- Eating soft foods that do not need excessive chewing
- Sucking on ice chips or ice pops
- Drinking ice water, milk, sherbet, and other cold beverages
- Ice cream
- Avoidance of spicy and salty foods.
- Avoidance of soda, citrus fruit drinks, and other kinds of acidic beverages and foods.
Certain precautionary measures such as thoroughly washing hands, teaching good personal habits to the child, disinfecting common areas, and isolating contagious individuals can help in prevention of hand foot mouth rash.