HFM— Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Babies and Toddlers

Your child has had a fever for a few days. Just when the fever cleared and you thought things were about to get better… you notice red spots around your toddler’s mouth. Get ready mama! With warm weather, comes Coxsackie Virus. This virus, otherwise known as Hand, Foot and Mouth or HFM, is miserable. HFM in toddlers and other young children can be even worse.

HFM in Toddlers

HFM in a Toddler

HFM, or Hand, Foot, & Mouth, usually starts with fever, and then as fever seems to improve, the rash develops. This HFM rash is nasty. Red marker-like dots appear on the palms of your child’s hands and also may appear on the bottom of the feet as well. Over the next 12-24 hours these red spots will turn into blisters. They are painful and itchy. Your baby, toddler, or older child’s mouth may suddenly become full of these HFM blisters as well. You might not see them, but you will know your child is having mouth discomfort when she refuses to drink or eat. These are clear signs of HFM in babies, toddlers, and older children.

Hand, foot and mouth earns its name by the common symptoms it produces (not surprisingly, to the hands, feet and mouth :-). But don’t panic if the rash spreads over your child’s bum and extremities. With HFM / Hand Foot and Mouth Disease in children, it is very common to see the blisters form around the mouth as well as on other parts of the body.

The rash from HFM can be itchy. Cool compresses to the palms of your child’s hands can help with the itch. The itching from HFM can be bothersome, but nothing you put on it will make it go away any quicker. A bag of peas, cool wet face cloth or soothing lotion may help with your child’s discomfort. Keep an eye on your baby or toddler’s diaper rash. Using an emollient such as Aquaphor on it will help protect the sores from pee and poop which can hurt and irritate the rash…

Can Parents Catch HFM from Toddlers and Babies?

Yes, children can pass on HFM to parents, siblings, other caregivers, really anyone who is in close contact with the child. Mom and dad, you better keep your distance if your baby, toddler, or older child has HFM. Hand Foot and Mouth Disease spreads through saliva and poop. Good hand washing is a must. Make sure to scrub those hands after diaper changes. Adults can catch HFM too. It’s the very worst.

Full grown adults who catch Hand Foot and Mouth Disease are often down for the count for days. Nothing says a week out of work better than blisters all around your mouth and having to cover your hands! Dads watch out, for some reason in my experience as a nurse, the Dads seem to get hit harder! Some adults luck out and just get a sore throat. Regardless, if your baby, toddler, or older child has HFM, cross those fingers and wash those hands!

How to Treat HFM in Babies, Toddlers, and Older Children

Now again, don’t panic. There is nothing you can do to treat HFM. It is a virus. There are many strains of Coxsackie virus. You can get HFM multiple times if you are lucky enough to get exposed to all the different Coxsackie virus strains. Again, hand washing is the key to help prevent HFM transmission.

The most important thing to remember when your child has HFM is to stay hydrated. Pedialyte pops are great to hydrate your little toddler or baby while soothing her mouth. Tea parties with cold Pedialyte, feeding with an oral syringe, trying different cups and bottles are a few ways to trick your child to drink more. Their mouth hurts, they are miserable– get that kiddo a popsicle! Push those fluids. They must keep drinking. You must keep your child hydrated when she has HFM.

Motrin helps too. If your baby is over 6 months old and can take Motrin, this can provide some pain relief as well. Check the over the counter Motrin for dosing or check in with your Nurse-1-1 team and we can help too.

Hide the Doritos! Don’t let that kiddo start snacking on crunchy foods, sharp edges, hard toast or acidic drinks or sauces. Keep it gentle. The main goal here is to keep that babe hydrated.

HFM in Children– When to Seek Medical Attention

If your child appears to be lethargic, like a wet noodle; has no tears with crying; no urine/wet diaper in 6-8 hours; or if he is straight out refusing to drink all day, then it is time to check in with a medical professional. You might need to get your child some hydration through an IV. You may be able to go to your local urgent care, or you might have to head into the Emergency Room if your child isn’t getting enough fluids or is looking very ill. Get that baby checked if he still has fever after 4 days, is looking worse, the rash is spreading, or if he has other symptoms or concerns.

Some kids need a visit and some don’t, but let a medical professional help you to decide. Check in with one of our Nurse Practitioners at Nurse-1-1.com or check in with your primary care provider. We are here to help!

The HFM Healing Process in Toddlers and Babies

Once the worst of HFM is over, you will notice your baby or toddler’s blisters starting to peel and slough off. New skin will grow back, and over the next week or so your child’s hands and feet should get back to normal. Sometimes you may notice a ridge growing into the baby’s nail beds. This can be an effect of the hand foot and mouth.

Once the worst is over, most kids will then develop a runny nose for a few days. If fever reappears, the rash worsens or spreads, or your child appears ill, this is not a normal progression of the illness. Get checked out to be sure there is nothing else going on.

Get those hands washed and stock your freezer with pops! Good luck!

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like, I have been suffering from headache and fatigue for a while. Should I be worried? What is the the difference between a common cold vs flu? Is fever in kids bad? Well we can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.