hand-foot-mouth disease

This is one of the select group of viral infections that is so characteristic in its appearance that it can just about be diagnosed over the telephone. There may or may not be some fever, but there is always a rash that appears very characteristically on the palms and soles: it appears as a whitish or creamy colored flat area surrounded by a border of red skin, perhaps 1/16 to 1/8 inch in diameter. There will be several of these areas on the palms and soles. There may be similar lesions in the mouth or on the tongue (stomatitis). Also, red dots may appear on the body, especially the buttocks and the back of the thighs. It lasts one to two weeks; the incubation is 3-6 days. There is of course no treatment - it's a virus. It is not a serious illness.

It is, by the way, caused by one of the large family of Herpes-like viruses called Coxsackie virus. This explains the similarity of the mouth ulcers to other Herpes-type infections. (No relation to bovine hoof-and-mouth disease.)

Complications are quite rare, but one strain of the virus can cause more serious infections. Fortunately, most hand-foot-mouth infections are caused by the ordinary, benign strain of Coxsackie virus. There have been reports of stillbirth in women exposed to Coxsackie virus infections, so some degree of caution in that regard would be wise.

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