What It's Like To Be An Adult With Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease (Spoiler: Not Great)
Heyyyo, happy Monday ha ha ^
A few weeks ago my son's daycare sent an email asking parents to keep an eye out for the signs & symptoms of the Coxsackie Virus AKA Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFM). Formerly childless, I'd had the luxury of not knowing what the Hell that was, but it sounded gross & some quick Googling informed me it was indeed fucking awful:
Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFM) is a common viral infection that causes painful red blisters in the mouth and throat, and on the hands, feet, and diaper area.
HFM is contagious and easily spreads to others through contact with unwashed hands, feces (poop), saliva (spit), mucus from the nose, or fluid from the blisters. Kids under age 5 are most at risk for HFM.
Besides the blisters, kids often have a fever for a few days and can get dehydrated because it hurts to swallow liquids.
There is no vaccine to prevent HFM and the only 'cure' is waiting until it goes away over the course of about a week to ten days. Bonus: It's caused by several types of viruses so they can get it more than once. I mean look at this (vis Shutterstock) and picture it being in every crevice of your body including your mouth:
Apparently each Fall it wreaks absolute havoc on daycares, and if you have a child you understand why this poop/spit/mucus borne illness THRIVES… No matter how careful you are or how much you sanitize there is simply no escaping the endless river of drool and boogers, or the collateral damage of a diaper blowout. Plus, anything a baby/toddler gets their hands on goes immediately to their mouths.. Add in the fact that most of them are teething which means extra saliva & snot, and you've got a perfect storm on the daycare play mat.
Speaking of, the main giveaway of HFM - the rash & spots - doesn't happen until the end of it and the initial symptoms often mirror those of bad teething, so a lot of times parents don't realize their kid has it right away, which means more time to spread to others before it's caught & they're taken out of class.
Annnnd such was the case with us, woot woot!
A few days after that email went out the little fella wasn't being himself. Loss of appetite, slight runny nose, extra clingy, pink cheeks, shaking his head from side to side.. all signs of teething. Myself & his teachers took note but all agreed it was probably his two bottom teeth cutting through.
The following evening I noticed a few teeny bumps on his knees, but I didn't think that would be Hand, Foot and Mouth (I mean, there's no KNEES in that name), and they weren't red or anything. Totally just his sensitive skin & how hard he'd been trying to crawl. Sure, he was getting more & more irritated but yes, that was it. Everything was fine.
Either way, the next morning (a Saturday) he was super lethargic & by that night he had some red spots & a rash across his knuckles and wrists, so I alerted the daycare in an unnecessarily rambling, apologetic manner & took him to the doctor where it was confirmed. (Not only that, turns out he had an ear infection, too. So.. teething, HFM & an ear infection. I felt terrible for my guy.)
Again, there's no cure so the doctor advised me to keep him comfortable & hydrated as best I could. For us this meant attempting to administer infant Motrin and Tylenol, which is incredibly sticky and in bright, stainy colors for some reason. I'd sort of straddle him to pin his arms & Pat would try to make him laugh so he'd open his mouth (and so we didn't scar him for life ha ha), but regardless this was usually the baby by the time we were done with only a fraction making it into his mouth:
Since the painful sores get in their mouth & throat we also used little mesh pouches with frozen watermelon or ice chunks, always had milk/formula on the ready for whenever he'd allow it, and wound up holding him pretty much all night long. It's the worst knowing they're going through the wringer and I would have done anything to take it away from him… (and, foreshadowing here, but little did I know - I truly would be the next to take it!)
Selfishly I was also terrified of getting HFM but the doctor assured me it was rare in adults. Still, I was on edge. Especially after I tweeted about it and adults who had gotten it let me know how truly heinous it was:
I also got DMs saying people had been bedridden for days and that the pain of the rash was horrible.
My eyes were peeled for the signs and I became extra vigilant about not letting him chew on my chin (one of his favorite pass-times), getting him extra, squeaky clean at bath time, and washing all of his toys & blankets & the surfaces in his room over and over. It was a rough several days with no sleep in the cards, but he was a champ and quickly started getting better.
Back at the doctor he got the all-clear note to head back to daycare, but by then it was time for Thanksgiving break anyway.
"Phew, perfect, we're in the clear," I thought, like a big old stupid, stuuuupid, foolish, dummy-dum, idiot-face McGoo. "Yep. Healthy for the holiday," I ruminated like a complete jabroni macaroni foolzoni pants… So naive.
A couple days later I started to feel what I'd describe as "electric sparks" across my skin, but I chalked that up to me being paranoid & generally nuts. Then in the middle of the night on Thanksgiving Eve I woke up drenched in sweat; that kind of panic-hot when you fall asleep with way too many blankets & a hoodie on and you can't get them all off you fast enough and you feel like you're about to die. We were at Pat's parent's house and I was so delirious I stripped down in a frenzy & went out pants-less into the hall and turned off the heat to the entire home and then stared up at the guest bedroom ceiling trying not to puke.
I took this terrifying photo of myself in that moment to really remember the vibe I guess? (Buzz, your partner with early onset Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease that they're in denial about, WOOF!)
By sunrise I thought maybe it was just a quick 24 hour bug, because I still didn't have a rash and Tylenol was helping. I mean, the corner of my mouth was a little wonky and there was one itchy spot on my left wrist but maybe that was a bug bite? Like the stupid, stuuuupid, foolish, dummy-dum, idiot-face McGoo I was, I scratched it. (Denial strikes again.)
It wasn't until hours later after a long, hot shower that I knew I was doomed… When I was drying off there were faint but very definitive little red spots allll over my palms, arms, and feet which had also begun to swell so much I thought they'd crack:
I kept my mask on, washed my hands constantly, stayed away from everyone as best I could, and tried to rest (which is pretty much a joke when you have a baby).
By the time we got home it started to feel like my finger and toe nails were going to fall off, and some of my toes got HUGE. It hurt to walk or even just stand on them, and laying down it felt like they were too close to the edge of a bonfire. And then my mouth broke out in fucking sores which is great when you do social media for a living (thank God for you, Paris Filter). Then my entire body felt like it was being dipped in boiling bleach. Then my extremities turned neon red & my fingertips got these deeper bubbles inside of them. Little things like opening the cap on a bottle of water felt like gripping a heated cheese grater.
There's more photos of when it got much worse, but quite frankly I'm too embarrassed to share them and my feet were never cute to begin with. Just know that every time I looked in the mirror at the height of it, this is what I saw:
Somehow I wound up getting it a lot worse than the baby & missed almost an entire week at the office which gave me a TON of additional anxiety after already missing work when the baby himself had it (though I'm pretty sure Dave would FLIP if someone infected the office with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease right before Black Friday, so it was for the best).
And then right when I was finally starting to recover, Pat began breaking out with it and it wiped him out big time. He was in bed for days and it was all over his nose, mouth, ears, scalp, hands, and uh…
But again, hey, it's not like we're having sex these days anyways ha ha:
And oh, every time I think I'm finally good, something else with it pops up. This is me TODAY, in what is probably my third week dealing with it… wherever the spots were are now little potholes of peeling, sensitive skin & my hands look like they've aged 1,000 years:
Really long story short: Adult HFM = Not great! And honestly getting it makes you feel even worse because now you know what your baby went through.
If you're a parent out there with a kid in daycare stay on your un-blistered toes and try to keep them that way…
Prevention: Wash your hands, try not to touch your face & disinfect everything you can… Car seats, their crib, toys, pacifiers, bottles, sippy cups, play areas, clothes, sheets, blankets, spoons & dishes… For his bottles parts, spoons, bowls, etc. I used microwave microsteam bags, for non-food surfaces – 8 teaspoons bleach in a gallon of water or 2 teaspoons bleach in a quart of water, his toys went in the dishwasher on the highest setting, etc… We even bleached the trashcan his diapers go in & hosed it off in the shower along with his high chair.
Ah, you know what, I'm getting carried away. Not trying to scare you. It was a fluke with us. You'll be fine! (Just kidding you are also probably fucked, I am so sorry.) Have a good rest of the week!