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Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease – Yes, Adults Can Get It Too

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease – Yes, Adults Can Get It Too

A few weeks ago, my family had their first experience with a virus called Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. It ravaged my son’s face, hands, butt, legs, feet, and then it made it’s way to me. Yup, I got it too, full-force, at 33 years old. I have now officially gone from knowing just a little bit (“oh that’s a daycare virus”) to being an absolute expert. Here’s our story.

– TMI Warning –

Queasy Stomachs Click Away – Pictures Ahead

The timeline went like this.


My son returns to daycare after our trip.


I notice he is warm to the touch. I mention something to my husband, and give him Tylenol. No other symptoms. He clocks in at 99.1 degrees, with no other symptoms. We send him to daycare and think nothing of it.


Still really warm upon waking up, but no other symptoms. A fever by itself is your body’s immune system at work, and I didn’t even take his temperature at this point since he didn’t seem “off” at all.


He wakes up with a single bump, on his mouth. Again he’s warm. Hand, foot, and mouth pops into my head among other things. I also think “allergies” and “did somebody with cold sores kiss my baby?!” So I’m basically just freestyling here with a diagnosis, but I know something is off. It’s been several days where I think he has a fever, but nobody believes me.

hand foot and mouth progression


The bump is gone! Except… what’s this? Now there’s one on his forehead! Yup, despite the name, HFM is not exclusive to just these areas. More on that later.

Oh and my toddler has been replaced with a monster. He is in the worst mood. I leave him to rest and play as he wants to, because he’s in full nightmare mode. He refuses all food. Later, I realize that this is because the throat ulcers develop first, and my poor baby’s throat was probably killing him.

Monday – The day all hell breaks loose

He’s slept horribly all weekend and we have a photo shoot for our Christmas card pictures that Monday. My normally playful son is being pretty intolerant of the whole thing, and we don’t get many smiles.

Then he is quiet and groggy the whole ride home. I say to my husband “Mason is about to get sick. I know you don’t believe me, something’s wrong.” We take him to lunch on the way home, and he takes a bite, then gags violently on his lunch (again, unbeknownst to me – throat ulcers). Yikes. We quickly leave.

We lay him down for a nap, and he naps for a very uncharacteristic four hours.

When he wakes up, he wants to go back to bed. I’m very worried since he’s barely eaten, and doesn’t want to eat or drink now. Not even a Pediasure shake will sway him. I take his temperature. 102.7 degrees. I don’t like that one bit, and insist on a trip to the ER.

As we are there, his mouth erupts and we probably didn’t even need to be there to get our diagnosis. While waiting in our little room, I watched my son get at least 50 lesions on his feet, and mouth. It’s incredible how fast they were developing. From waiting room to discharge, we were there about four hours. In that time, he went from a clear face, to full blown HFM.

He cried and drooled all over me, as I lay in the room with him. I felt him resting on me, crying on to me, and slamming his feet on to the hospital bed as he tried to scratch them… and I realized I was probably being infected.

The next morning, he looked like this (yes he likes to sit on the coffee table, don’t ask, toddlers are weird).

toddler hand foot and mouth disease

Over two days, his face, hands, feet, and butt just kept erupting in new blisters. In my research I learned that people with allergies and eczema are particularly susceptible to it, and well… that’s my son and I. Here’s what I did to keep him comfortable.

Treating Hand, Foot, and Mouth in Toddlers

Caladryl cream on his feet

It’s drying so it will not over-moisturize and cause further irritation on the blisters. He even realized how soothing it was, and would grab the bottle and bring it to me with this pleading look in his eyes, wanting me to rub it on to his feet non-stop.

Baby Motrin and Baby Tylenol

Alternating every 4/6 hours in your pediatrician-approved age-appropriate dose (5 ml for my son). This keeps the pain at bay. You’d think itching is the only problem, but the skin stretches as the blisters form and it is painful. His feet hurt with every step, and he didn’t want shoes. His throat hurt with every swallow, and it comes with a mind-numbing headache (as I soon found out first-hand).


Sleep was hard to come by while the virus was in it’s active “eruption” phase. Those 3 nights, Benadryl helped the itching tremendously and allowed my little guy to find the healing rest that every little one needs when they’re feeling down.

Ditch the Hot Baths

Instinct is to take a nice, hot bath when you’re sick in any way, right? Not when you have a skin issue. Any skin issue. I was the world’s most allergic child. I could write a book on dealing with children’s allergies. In fact, maybe I will (or at least a blog post). For now though, I’ll just say, heat brings the histamine (the itchy stuff) to the skin’s surface. When you’re dealing with HFM, room temperature water is more than enough – immediately followed by a noncomedogenic lotion like Cetaphil.

Cover it, if baby lets you

The more you mess with it, the worse it is. Cool, airy, cotton clothing will cover the lesions while still letting them breathe.

It’s not a diaper rash, so don’t put diaper cream

HFM isn’t just in the hands, feet, and mouth. My son got it all over his butt and legs. The sores are fluid-filled, and they hurt when they burst open. They need to dry out, not be packed with moisture. So as wonderful as your favorite diaper cream is, leave it on the shelf for this round.

Then over the next few weeks, they healed up. His poor feet are still peeling and it’s more than a month since he got sick. Then there’s me… how did Mom fare, you ask?

Adults Can Definitely Get Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

About two days into my son’s experience, I got the mother of all headaches. I felt my throat suddenly sore as well. I examined my hands, and sure enough, under the surface you could see these tiny little bumps. They were barely visible unless you knew you were looking for them.

That night, I went to bed, and felt constant itchy, painful tightening of my hands as new bumps developed. It was so hard to sleep, my gosh. I was miserable and feeling horrible for my son, wondering how long he had been feeling the same way. By day two, my feet hurt to walk, it hurt to touch anything, and I felt like every ounce of energy had been drained from me. I felt like human bubble wrap, every time I touched something, a bump popped and … ow.

My face was spared, thankfully. While my toddler may have still looked cute with little bumps all over his mouth, I really don’t think I could have pulled it off.

My hands, about three days in, looked like this (most of the bumps had already popped):

adult hand foot and mouth disease

We had to miss a lot of activities, stay home for weeks until every last bump went away, and generally have a pretty miserable time! Apparently the virus has mutated since it’s discovery in the early 90’s, and more recent cases are being reported in teens and adults. It’s not like chicken pox either guys, this doesn’t just come for you once. Since it’s viral, and there are different strains, this is a gift that can keep on giving. So my advice? If your child’s daycare has a couple cases pop up, keep them home for a few days and let it pass. You don’t want to bring this bad boy home.

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