Hand, Foot and Mouth – a guide for families.

Hand, Foot and Mouth is one of those rights of passage for many children. It’s a common childhood illness along with more well known viruses such as chicken pox. Despite it looking rather concerning and being uncomfortable for the child, it is actually not one of the illness that requires the child to be isolating or excluded from their educational setting, toddler groups etc (however go by how your child is feeling and check with the provider that there aren’t any immuno-compromised children who may get very poorly from a virus). My 2 year old has recently caught the virus so I thought I’d share what we’ve learnt from it.


The spots started on the Tuesday, however on hindsight he had had it for at least a week. F had a ‘cold’ (runny nose and slight cough) but nothing major. He was running around, eating and drinking as normal. It was the Sunday night where I think it really ‘hit’. F had a really awful nights sleep – well, we were awake more than asleep. But by the morning he was fine again so went off to Nursery in the morning. He came home and ate his lunch, then laid on the sofa. I wasn’t concerned, after all he had barely slept so must be tired.

However he then had a sudden temperature of 39-40c. He wasn’t wanting to move or make any noise (very unusual for him). I gave him some calpol and off he went to bed. The next morning he woke up absolutely fine. No temp but he wasn’t wanting to eat and was barely playing. He just wanted cuddles on the sofa. By the afternoon several spots had appeared on his back and his bum cheeks. My first thought was chickenpox. However, Wednesday he woke up and a rash had started on his lower back and thighs. Within hours he had light spots everywhere on him. They were at their most concentrated and sore looking on his hands and fingers, top of his foot and his toes.

We couldn’t get him to doctors until Thursday. He was barely eating or drinking, less wet nappies and wasn’t wanting to do anything but sit on the sofa and play for short periods on the floor. He kept having a sort of gagging/tickly cough. The GP confirmed Hand, Foot and Mouth. She found spots in his mouth and back of his throat which explained the not wanting to eat or drink.

To sum that up:

  • Starts with symptoms similar to a cold (not always)
  • Temperature
  • Off their food/drink
  • Tired
  • Headache/feeling unwell
  • Not their usual temperment
  • Spots on hands/fingers, feet/toes and mouth (inside and/or outside)

What to do…

There’s no medication to treat HF&M and frankly, not a lot to do but ride it out. I found that just letting F have his rest and time off nursery was best for us. We just chilled out with movies and bringing toys to the sofa to play with. I kept his body in long sleeved tops and light trousers, and feet covered with socks because it is a very contagious illness. I wanted to cover as many spots as I could (you’re contagious before the spots and first 5 days after symptoms – read this on the NHS website).

I had easy to swallow snacks so he was eating little and often instead of big meals. We stocked up on yoghurts as they were cool and easier than most foods to get into him. I also let him have sugar free squash to encourage him to drink. I gave him calpol when he was showing signs of discomfort (rubbing his head on the sofa or on me) and at bedtimes (he was waking up with what I assume was either aches or his throat). This seemed to take the edge off. He wasn’t particularly itchy but I kept putting Child’s Farm moisturiser on him esp his bottom whenever I changed nappies as he had lots there. I also tried to keep him cool as being hot just aggravates the spots. When my eldest had it when he was younger we were given a throat spray to help numb him a bit, but we haven’t needed this with F.

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I have bought a new toothbrush for when this is over so I can dispose of the old one. HF&M is a virus you can get multiple times. It’s not a ‘once you’ve had it, you’ve had it’ thing and as the spots are in his mouth this seems sensible. F has been using a separate towel from us and already has his own wash cloths. I’m also cleaning the toys more too and everyone is doing a lot of handwashing to stop it spreading.

That’s all you can really do. It’s just a case of waiting it out. However, if things drag on or if you are concerned then it’s always best to call your GP. Ours told me to call if the spots got too sore looking.

To sum that up:

  • Rest and change routine to have some chill time.
  • Get foods that are more comfortable to eat
  • Have ice lollies and yoghurts ready.
  • Encouraging drinking.
  • Use painkillers such as Calpol as needed.
  • Ensure cleanliness at home (separate towels, good handwashing etc).

How long did it last?

Once the spots came out it was 2-3 days of just watching more and more spots appear. He was not himself for about 3-4 days and was then back normal – except the difficulty eating as the spots were still in his throat. We are currently day 6 (from date of spots) and they are now fading. The ones on his body and legs are pretty much gone, it’s just the hands, feet and mouth spots but even they look a lot better now. Apparently it can last up to 10 days.

As horrible as the spots have looked, we have faired pretty well through Hand, Foot and Mouth. It’s hard seeing your child poorly so I’m glad the worst of it was over fairly quick. With any rash its always best to speak to your GP and if you ever have concerns then just check in with a medical professional. What I have shared here is simply our experience and what worked for us. I’d love to hear if you have any extra suggestions or experiences to add. Just let me know in the comments below or come find us on Instagram and Twitter.

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