Don’t Be Fooled :: A Word on Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

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Don’t Be Fooled by HFM

A Word on Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (the most horribly named illness your child will probably get)

My daughter, Edie, has had diaper rash on and off since we brought her home from the hospital. Our pediatrician warned us during our first-ever visit—when she was just a few days old—that she would likely be a “rashy baby” thanks to two parents with ultra-fair skin, and that this might include bouts of diaper rash throughout her early years. So, when the rosy hue on her bottom developed some zit-like blemishes, I honestly thought it was just really bad diaper rash.

We did our normal Resinol slathering, and she seemed fine.

She wasn’t shifting around in her highchair in discomfort or crying out when we changed her diaper. But the pustules continued. In fact, they worsened.

We had just gone to visit my parents in my hometown, Eufaula, Alabama. The weather verged on nice in the mornings there, so we had her out and about in my parents’ backyard. Edie clocked some legit swing time with her Opa. Her G-Moo showed her all the gorgeous blooms that occur in Southeast Alabama when the humidity drops but the heat persists just enough to create vibrant roses and the most stunning sunrise-orange Mexican sunflowers. So, when we rolled back into Birmingham, I assumed the handful of marks on my little one’s thighs were mosquito bites. (I mean, the mosquito might as well be Eufaula’s mascot.)

Walter, my husband and baby daddy extraordinaire, dropped her off at daycare on Monday morning as usual. She had a solid first breakfast with us and then was off to her regular routine. Later, at 11:00 a.m., Walter got a message from the daycare saying that Edie had a spot on her hand that made them think she may have Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, often shortened to HFM.

I was gearing up to teach a Pure Barre class when he notified me that he was on his way from work to get her. Once he relayed the message from school, I was distinctly baffled.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth? Surely not.

My daughter didn’t have any spots on her mouth or feet.

And that little marking on her hand could’ve easily been from where she sucks her thumb in her sleep. Or from where she pinched her finger over the weekend for that matter! Right?!

Wrong. In fact, HFM isn’t relegated to the hands, feet, and mouth AT ALL. In fact, the pustules associated with the viral illness can be virtually anywhere. Also, we never knew that there would be a runny nose associated with the disease. We had previously chocked that up to a new crop of kiddos at school with her—you know, the general back-to-school germs. Wrong again.

It turns out that HFM often occurs first in the genital and buttocks area. So, if your kid ends up with a snotty nose plus some unsightly blemishes on his/her booty, be aware that it could very well be HFM. It can be pretty gnarly, often accompanied by a fever, sore throat, and outbreaks in the mouth that can curb your little one’s appetite or comfort in drinking fluids.

After a talk with the gurus at Alabama Pediatrics, we knew to stock up on Children’s Tylenol and Motrin, as well as Pedialyte.

Don’t Google images of HFM.

It’ll just terrify you. Instead, if you’re feeling like your kiddo might have Hand, Foot, and Mouth, call your doctor to ask what’s up and be prepared to dose your little one up with fever reliever and an ample supply of hydration.

As for you, make sure to wash your hands EVERY TIME YOU HANDLE BABY. HFM is spread through snot, spit, and feces. (What a visual!) Some of the unsightly elements of HFM can certainly affect you as mom/dad/caregiver too. (Again, don’t Google pics of it!) So, snuggle on, but be sure to wash your hands afterwards.

We’re super fortunate that Edie is a little baddie when it comes to every illness (including 2 bouts of RSV plus bronchitis and strep, as well as a weeklong stint with Covid after the Fourth of July). She kept her appetite up throughout the duration of her run with HFM, and the bittersweet upside was an abundance of hugs and snuggles from my usual super busy baby.

I only wish I would’ve known that Hand, Foot, and Mouth is a major misnomer.

I suppose Legs, Hands, and Booty doesn’t have the same ring to it. Just remember that late summer and early fall are peak times for the illness. Also, it can appear basically anyplace on your little one’s person. Unsightly as it is, you and your kiddo will get through it. Give it five to 10 days (roughly), and you should be set to have your sweet little one rejoin the human race. In the meantime, maybe buy a second bottle of wine (or stock up on your favorite pumpkin beers – ‘tis the season!) to have handy for after baby heads off to dreamland. And remember that it’s not your fault if it never occurred to you that those blemishes on your perfect child’s skin could be HFM. It’s seriously SO crappily named!!  

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My name is Jamie, and I'm a writer, editor, fitness instructor, and self-proclaimed hype woman. I've been in B'ham almost 10 years, but I grew up in Eufaula, Alabama (yep, the town with the pretty houses on the way to the beach). I received my M.A. in English/creative writing with a focus on creative nonfiction from UAB in 2015, and I have an undergraduate degree in creative writing with a focus on poetry from UAB as well. I am the content marketing manager at Alabama Media Group, overseeing all sponsored content, blog, infographic, and white paper content. My husband and I have been married just over a year, and we've been together for 6 years. We live in Homewood, and in June 2021, we added a new member to the party: our baby girl, Edie. When I'm not working, I'm spending a large chunk of the day figuring out this tiny human. But during whatever free time I have, you'll catch me doing HIIT and barre classes, reading (memoirs and feminist lit are my favorite), and experimenting in the kitchen.

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