ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- When Martha Hicks’ 2-year-old came home from daycare with a fever, she wasn’t overly concerned. But then she noticed spots show up on her daughter’s skin.
“They looked like a burn, like a blister, sort of raised, almost a little bit puffy,” said Hicks.
She took her daughter to the doctor, who diagnosed the child with hand, foot and mouth disease.
Not long after that, her neighbor’s two kids, a 2-year old and an 11-month old, got sick too.
“We don’t know how our girls got it, but it’s so contagious,” said neighbor Christy Pusczek.
“There are all kinds of theories out there that maybe it has to do with the seasons, the heat, the temperature, but nobody really understands,” said Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann with St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
The good news is that most kids recover just fine. The bad news is the virus is miserably painful and can take several days to run its course. Dehydration can be a concern because mouth sores make it painful for children to eat or drink.
Dr. Berchelmann recommends parents give children Ibuprofen for pain. She says to ask a doctor to calculate a full, weight-adjusted dose. Some children may be able to take more than what the instructions on the bottle recommend. Dr. Berchelmann stresses parents should call their pediatricians to calculate the best dose. Most should be able to help over the phone, said Dr. Berchelmann.
Antibiotics won’t work. Prevention methods include frequent hand washing, disinfecting toys and shared surfaces to help stop the spread of the disease.
Hicks and Pusczek say they kept their children away from other kids for about two weeks. Symptoms, like runny nose, can last seven to 14 days. A fever can last three to five days and Dr. Berchelmann recommends keeping children out of school or daycare for at least 24 hours after the child is free of fever.
Most hear hand, foot and mouth disease and think of hoof and mouth, a virus that affects animals. They’re not the same. Humans can’t get hoof and mouth and animals can’t get hand, foot and mouth disease.
The human virus isn’t uncommon, but doctors are seeing a spike in the St. Louis area. The illness is not reported to local health departments like the flu is, so hard statistics weren’t available. Right now, Cardinal Glennon says its doctors estimate that 20 to 25 kids are diagnosed in the emergency room daily. At St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann says she has never seen this many cases in her 10-year career.