What To Expect When You’re Expecting Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease

After a very interesting fall complete with a teacher’s strike that left my kids at home for over 3 months of summer vacation, I was ready for all 4 of my kids to be in the school full time. Once upon a time I had dreaded such a thing, and couldn’t imagine what I’d do with myself during the day when they were all in school. Thanks to the teacher’s strike, I was MORE than ready for it go down. It helps that they, after such a long break, were very happy to go back.

But just when I was about to enjoy some Starbucks and a nice browse through the aisles of Home Goods I’ve been too scared to look in because my 5 year old likes to pick up glass objects (did you know they sell organic coconut sugar? Nope, neither did I), illness started to strike. And not just any illness either – we started off slowly with what appeared to be a cold and then WHAM, we’ve got a rather nasty outbreak of Hand, Foot, and Mouth. Otherwise known as the Coxsackie virus, this little gem is making the rounds at my kids school. My 8 year old might have brought it home, but my 5 year old just hit it out of the park by rashing it up all over his body.

Hand, foot, and mouth blisters

Even his butt isn’t safe at this point.

I feel so incredibly bad for him right now, and for you if you’ve come here looking for information about it because your child is sick. That’s why I thought creating a specific timeline of events can help you know what to expect from Hand, Foot, and Mouth, and maybe help you through the very pivotal ‘evening of rash’ as I like to call it.

Let me just say right off the bat that I’m not a doctor or a nurse – I’m a mom who has 4 kids that have have come down with  everything from Roseola to Scarlet Fever. The crazy thing about Hand, Foot, and Mouth is that it can be very specific in how it rolls out. Not everyone gets it as badly as some, but when those few do get it, it’s almost like it’s on a timer.

Sometimes I jerk awake at night screaming, “Wash your hands!” Clearly, they aren’t listening.

Illness timeline for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Outbreak

  • Mom, I have a stomachache – This is usually how Hand, Foot, and Mouth starts, but a stomachache can be everything from trapped gas to too many crackers, so you might just gloss over this if it happens at 6 pm the way mine did.
  • Mom, I have a stomachache and a fever – Hey, 3am. It’s nice to see you again. Now that the stomachache clearly isn’t going away and it’s associated with a fever, you might be thinking flu. I sure did. Although they might try to throw up, and you might have to go back and forth to the toilet with them while they heave, nothing happens. I thought this was odd, but just watched over him and he went back to sleep.
  •  He doesn’t want to throw up anymore – 6 am. His stomach still hurts a bit and he’s tired, but he seems fine. I give him some ibuprofen and spend the day feeling crazed from lack of sleep while I watch over him. He requests Subway for lunch. The fever is still there.
  • The fever has broken – 9 pm. He breaks out in the typical clammy sweat I associate with a fever breaking and he sleeps fine for the rest of the night.
  • Enter sore throat – 6 am. He has a sore throat and he says every time he swallows it burns. I take a look and it’s bright red with a pattern that almost looks like stripes across his tonsils. He spends the rest of the day on the couch and has a nap at 2 pm.
  • Here come the spots – 7 pm and his throat still hurts. I had mistakenly thought he was improving and he had a friend over to hang out for awhile. Mistake. When I take a look in his throat, I see spots all over. Not sure what this is, I Google it. Of course Hand, Foot, and Mouth comes up, but never having seen this one before, I adopt a wait and see approach.
  • Full out rash – 9 pm. He’s exhausted but he can’t sleep. He says his feet itch. Upon inspecting his feet I see rash all over his toes. Looking at his hands, I see rash all over the palms and top. He also has rash on his back and his face. I ask him to open his mouth and he has blisters everywhere. This is where the ‘evening of rash‘ begins. We gave him Benadryl to try to ease the itch and I put anti-itch lotion on his feet. He said when he wore socks it helped. Don’t expect to get any sleep. I recommend a good book like Gone Girl and coffee. That one night of unbelievable itching is the worst part of this nasty bug.
  • More itching – 2 pm. Another day of itching, but for the same reasons why kids only seem to need to throw up at 3 am,  it doesn’t bother them as much during the day. Cold compresses help the worst spots.
  • Finally, some sleep again – After itching all day, the worst of it seems to be over. 7 pm and he’s sound asleep. Another part of this illness is fatigue. For him and me.
  • The rash is starting to clear up – It took about 3 days for my son’s rash to clear up. I kept him out of school until his throat looked back to normal and he had no fever.

Tips for surviving Hand, Foot, and Mouth

  •  Stock up on popsicles and make sure they drink all the time. Because the blisters in the throat are painful, they might not feel like eating but you have to keep them hydrated. Orange juice tends to burn, so I’d stick to milk or water.
  • Hand washing will be your friend! This is a very contagious virus, and can live in their bowel movements for a few months. Chase them around with a bar of soap and make sure everyone washes their hands all the time.
  • Take antibacterial wipes and wipe down all surfaces in your home. Don’t forget about light switches, sinks, and door knobs.
  • Keep them out of school, because you don’t want to be the person who shares this one. I read one online doc’s recommendation that you can send them back after the fever breaks, but that’s when the rash starts. If they have blisters, the blisters can open up and that my friends, is how illnesses spread.
  • Some kids get it worse than others. My 5 year old didn’t have the stomachache and a very minimal fever, but boy did he get the rash.

Not only did my 8 year old have it, he’s passed it on to a friend and, as I mentioned, his 5 year old brother. One can only hope that the Coxsackie rein of terror will end there.

I feel so bad that he gave it to his friend that I went out and bought his mom a gift. I wanted to make her a card too, but there is no card out there that says, “Hey, I’m sorry my kid gave your kids Hand, Foot, and Mouth.”

So my daughter and I made one, then she made another. It’s copied below. I plan on giving it to all of my son’s friends, because due to the highly contagious nature of this illness, more kids will get it I’m sure.

If you print it on card stock, these hand, foot, and mouth greeting cards will look beautiful and send a sincere message.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth is NO FUN for anyone. Here’s hoping your outbreak is short and sweet.


 Hand, foot, and mouth disease 







Thank you

 Hand, foot, and mouth 











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  1. tanyarectasaurus

    Thank you! Most everything I have read has been a jumble of dates in what seems like a death sentence of isolation and cabin fever that is unending. Thank you for the light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve gotten over the fever and the spots are everywhere!!!

    • I hope it’s over for you! My boys actually got it again six months later, and the only good thing is that I knew what to expect. Worst virus ever!

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