Medical Q&As

Hand foot and mouth disease - treatment?

I brought my 4-year-old daughter to our GP and he told me she has foot and mouth disease. He said another name for this but I can't remember it. Her mouth is full of blisters. She has not eaten for several days but she is drinking and does not have a temperature. Her body did have a rash but this has now cleared up. Can you tell me more about this virus and any other treatments instead of just pain relief? Should I bring her back to the doctor to see what else he can do?

I don’t wish to sound pedantic but I wonder if you have the correct name for your daughter’s illness. There are two viral infections with similar sounding names, namely “foot and mouth disease” and “hand foot and mouth disease”. Foot and mouth disease is a viral infection that occurs in animals and can be transmitted to humans but since that disease was eradicated in Ireland during the recent national foot and mouth emergency there would not be any animal sources from which your daughter could become infected. I therefore assume that your daughter has hand foot and mouth disease. This is a relatively common childhood illness that is caused by the coxsackievirus. It is not transmitted to or from animals. The illness is self-limiting and tends to run its course in approximately one week. Although it may be very uncomfortable in the short term, it is not a serious illness and does not give rise to complications. There is no specific treatment for the condition. Treatment simply consists of relieving symptoms until the infection subsides. Temperature control and pain relief in addition to drinking sufficient fluids are the mainstays of treatment. If you are not happy with your child’s progress you should check back with your GP but all going well you should expect your child’s symptoms to resolve over the coming days.