Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
QUESTION: Our local paper published an alert that hand, foot and mouth disease is on the rise, and I don’t even know what that is.
Is there anything I should do to make sure my kids don’t get it?
— Laura K., Nashville, Tenn.
ANSWER: Hand, foot and mouth disease is a mild virus that mostly infects children from infancy to about 5 years of age. Sometimes, kids as old as 10 contract it, and adults have been known to get it too.
We’re aware of the recent report from the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., that there’s been a steep rise in the number of cases of this enterovirus, most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus. Although it is rarely a serious infection, you want to spare your children, if at all possible.
In child daycare centers and schools, it spreads through person-to-person contact. The first sign often is a spotty rash on the hands and feet, and sores may appear in the mouth. Tough cases can result in blistering on the upper arms and legs, and ulcers in the mouth. The blisters contain the virus. Until they dry, they’re highly contagious. As with any virus, it can leave kids feeling wiped out.
The virus and symptoms will resolve on their own, but if you have young ones, now would be a good time to teach or reinforce personal hygiene, especially frequent handwashing.
Also, make sure the folks in charge of the preschool and the teachers are aware of the heightened need for good hygiene, so everybody stays healthy and happy. If your child does catch it, keep him or her away from other kids for a few days — up to a week, if symptoms last that long.
As for treatment, ask your doc about using child-safe pain and fever relievers and mouth sprays.