Fall is the best season! Pumpkin spice is in the air. Kids are back in school. And they're bringing home a petri dish of germs, like hand-foot-and-mouth. Yaaaaaay.
Health Humor Parenting

Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease! Are You Kidding Me?

Fall is the best season! Pumpkin spice is in the air. Kids are back in school. And they're bringing home a petri dish of germs, like hand-foot-and-mouth. Yaaaaaay.

By Kelly Riibe of Family Footnote

Aww, the beginning of the school year. So much potential and so much hope coupled with the excitement of a new classroom. Cue the school bus wheels rolling and a brisk morning breeze because even though it is still summer there is also pumpkin spice in the air.


In addition to the breaking in of new backpacks and locker combinations come way too many communicable diseases. These viruses are just waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting elementary student. Nothing kills the productivity of the week like a case of hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD). I mean, one minute you are killing it as a parent and serving sliced pineapple with homemade bread for breakfast. The next moment you are yelling at your children to sit at different tables for all meals and everyone is eating sealed Lunchables.

Household Outbreak

My son has HFMD, which means spots on his hands and feet, a sore throat, and an achy mouth. This diagnosis makes me relive every last minute of the prior to week to see just how contaminated my entire family now is from this gross virus. HFMD is an illness that boasts canker-sore-type blisters in the mouth, on the hands, and between the toes. I know the black plague was bad, but did it involve quotes like this one from my five-year-old? “I feel like my teeth are leaking fuss.” *Fuss is kindergarten speak for puss. You’re welcome for the translation.

I am actually not sure what is worse: having HFMD or waiting out the symptoms. Okay, okay, I know my kindergartner has it worse. But my brain is fried from Lysol-spraying every door handle in our home, followed up with intense hand-scrubbing. I also keep rehashing my husband letting my son and my toddler share a water bottle during what has come to be known as the “outbreak,” or incubation period. Uggh, the worst. HFMD has me so paranoid that I even boiled all of the toothbrushes in our house.

Patient Zero

Seeing literal spots with HFMD is bad, but then a parent gets slammed with the knowledge that their sick child has been super contagious for the past five days. So yeah, germs that were packing serious heat got shared a lot. They made the rounds during every soccer practice, bus ride, carpool, and even that night I was being a cool mom and let the kids stay up late and share a huge bowl of popcorn. Basically, every single activity where a hula hoop of space was not maintained was an area of contamination.

Another horrible thing is that my kid could be patient zero. Enter mom guilt coupled with neighbor guilt, friend guilt, and extended family guilt. Who else is going to get sick because I thought my kid just had sinus allergies? We still went to church and hung out with groups of people during the red zone time period of being contagious.

But, how would I know? My daughters have been a part of the public school system for years and never complained of “fuss-leaking teeth.” Four kids and this is my first rendezvous with HFMD. The school nurse actually complimented me on making it this far in parenthood without the virus attacking.

Different Strains

My little guy has a mild case of HFMD, so I should not complain, but I am a middle child and airing grievances is instilled in my DNA. Seriously, the only thing worse than my son contracting this virus has been hearing other people’s horror stories. My neighbor’s kids had this ailment and it meant baking soda baths and horrible sores. My friend and her children caught it once and the blisters on their hands were so big that no one could make a fist because it ached too much.

Some people are known to have trouble eating and drinking during the days of darkness known as HFMD. Some cases cause ulcers in the mouth that make it too difficult to eat, drink, or swallow. Knock on wood, my son does not appear to have this version of the insane-crazed virus strain. Last night at the height of infection my kiddo drank copious amounts of milk and water, followed by eating two pieces of pizza, sliced apples, a Nutri-Grain bar, yogurt smoothie, and s’ mores. He is the human version of the hungry little caterpillar. I am actually worried a side effect of HFMD is some strange pupa stage where my son’s bed doubles as a cocoon.

Avoid the Internet

Another horrible byproduct of HFMD is the desire to Google the virus and every single gross image accompanied with it. Do not do this! All it does is make it impossible to sleep. As a parent, I need slumber to combat the demands of a sick child and his neglected siblings. Yet, I obviously Googled it and am now knocking back the coffee and Diet Coke to make up for restless nights.

WebMD did not make me feel better. However, it did let me know that I could save my co-pay because a visit to the doctor was not warranted. HFMD is just a waiting game, and this bad boy is pretty much finished once the fever is gone.

There are Worse Things Than HFMD

Thank goodness for Tylenol and Motrin. They are making my little guy more comfortable — so too are episodes of Dino Dan on Amazon Prime. I still have a handsome dude, even though HFMD is marking up his hands, feet, and face. He is feeling much better and has not had a high fever throughout the whole ordeal.

I keep telling myself that his fading red marks are really no big deal. At least not until school picture day…which happens to be tomorrow.

This post was originally published on Family Footnote.


About the Author

Kelly J. Riibe has three kiddos, a husband, a Jack Russell Terrier, and a mildly curbed addiction to Diet Coke. Keeping busy for her involves staying home with her children and also finding work as a freelance writer. She has been published in Nebraska Magazine, Heels on a Farm, The Manifest-Station, BonBon Break, Parent.co, Living Here Magazine, Black Hills Faces Magazine, and MockMom. She is also the co-writer for the blog: www.familyfootnote.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @familyfootnote and @KJRiibe.