Now that school is back in session, germs are spreading and your children are bringing home all types of illnesses, one in particular you should watch out for is Hand Foot and Mouth disease, a viral illness that results in fever and a painful rashes. Dr. Jessica Long gives us the lowdown on this dreaded illness.

When we signed up for parenthood, none of us really knew what we were getting into. Which is probably a good thing because if we were warned about dealing with a sick child who had Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease we may have made a different decision (just kidding, sweet kids!).

If you haven’t been plagued by this viral illness yet, your time will eventually come. Nearly every child is struck by this rash during their early childhood. It is typically harmless and lasts about a week but boy does it make for sleepless nights and lots of phone calls and office visits from uncomfortable families.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth is most common during the summer and early Fall though enteroviruses, which cause it, can infect at any time of year – our practice is seeing a lot of it right now. Your child may feel run down and a bit unwell for a few days, perhaps with fever or less of an appetite. Then the rash will start popping up on their – you guessed it! – hands, feet, and in and around the mouth. Not all three areas will necessarily be affected and other spots, especially their buttocks, can be plagued with these tiny red blistery spots.

There is no quick fix for Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. Keeping your little one hydrated is the main goal since kids often avoid eating and drinking due to the uncomfortable spots in their mouth. Giving some acetaminophen or ibuprofen may make them more willing to drink. Pedialyte popsicles are also lifesavers to soothe an aching mouth and get fluid in your sick child. If your child still doesn’t want to drink anything, chat with your pediatrician as there are prescription mouth washes that can be used to help combat the pain.

Even though your child may continue to shed the virus for weeks in respiratory droplets (like a runny nose or cough), most kids are no longer contagious once the red spots have crusted over, which takes about seven days. Your pediatrician will likely recommend that your child stay home until that happens and she is feeling better. To help prevent spreading Hand, Foot, and Mouth to others, wash hands frequently, clean and disinfect touched surfaces including toys, and avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging or sharing utensils and cups.

Most importantly, this too will pass. Just like lice, sleep regression, and that really annoying biting stage, Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease is another badge of honor we earn as parents. We really are super heroes.