Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is the result of contact with viruses from the Enterovirus genus, usually coxsackievirus. The condition is highly contagious and spreads through direct contact with unwashed hands, saliva, and surfaces contaminated with feces. While it's possible to contract the disease at any age, it is almost exclusively limited to children under the age of five; the body builds up immunity once exposed and reinfection is uncommon.
Children are most susceptible to the disease because they are often in less-than-sanitary social situations such as schools and playgrounds. Once one child contracts hand-foot-and-mouth disease, it is common for their classmates to follow suit. Fever or a sore throat are often the first symptoms to present, followed by characteristic blisters in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet. Doctors are generally able to diagnose a child with a physical examination, and clinical treatment is often unnecessary, as symptoms should disappear in seven to ten days. During this time, it is best to avoid contact with others.
Over-the-counter ointments for the rash, pain medications for headaches, and lozenges or cold medicine for throat pain can address most symptoms of hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Though rare, the coxsackievirus can lead to more serious symptoms.
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