Everything There Is To Know About Adult Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Part of what's been so difficult is not knowing what's going to happen. I have a lot of questions, and not a lot of answers. Because HFMD is so rare in adults, and because there is no vaccine or treatment, I don't think it gets a lot of attention in medical studies. So, I thought I'd share my questions and answers with you! Here we go ... 

I say, hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a highly contagious virus, most often passed around between children and to adults who work or live around children.  It is often caught in childcare settings, schools, etc.  HFMD begins with the onset of what seems like a cold or the flu, with blisters developing on hands, feet, face, mouth, and even the entire body within 2-4 days after exposure to the virus.  Don't listen to what your doctors say - adults CAN catch it, and it can be VERY painful, itchy, and generally uncomfortable.  After the blisters heal, one can expect to experience shedding of affected skin, loss of fingernails, and even loss of hair. 

What can I expect with HFMD?
I found some wonderful day by day blogposts, about:

The Dettol Diaries - Pictures!

That should be good enough to get you started.  You can also Google "Adult HFMD Timeline/Day by Day" for more!

How long does HFMD last? 
Typically it resolves itself within 10 days of noticing symptoms.  I was blister free about 9 days after falling ill, which was about 6 days after the first blister appeared.

Can there be complications?

I have HFMD.  What can I do to cure it?
Nothing my friend.  No antibiotic, no vaccine, no cure.  You just have to wait it out.

So ... how do I deal with this?
Glad you asked.

1. STAY AWAY from others while you still have a fever and blisters.  No kissing, no licking, no sharing of bodily fluids of any kind, no sharing of used utensils.  Solitary confinement is terrible, but infecting the people you love is much worse.  Once the blisters are clear, be careful not to swap saliva or stool.  Saliva can carry the virus for up to 3 weeks, and stool may carry it for up to 10. 

2. Sanitize EVERYTHING.  I kept a container of Lysol wipes in the shared bathroom, and after each use I wiped down EVERYTHING I touched, including faucet handles, doorknobs, the toilet handle, EVERYTHING.  Do not risk getting blister fluid or saliva on anything.  When you are no longer contagious, throw out items like toothbrushes, facial brushes, loofahs, and razors.  I even dumped lip balms, toothpaste, etc.  Anything that touched my mouth, and body that could be thrown out, was thrown out.  Don't forget to wash bed linens, towels, and shower curtains with hot water.

3. Take painkillers.  They will not take away the pain, but I think they reduce it.  If nothing else, it eases my headache and helps me sleep.

4. Glove up.  Buy disposable gloves that you can use when touching surface that you don't want to have to worry about cleaning.  I wore gloves on the rare occasion that I went into the kitchen.  I also wore socks, but plastic bags would have been a more sanitary footwear option.

5. Anti-itch cream might help.

6. Soak your hands and feet in cold water.  It helps.  A lot.

7. African Black soap MIGHT help.  It dries my skin out, so I used it as the blisters were healing to help dry them out.  Also, since it has antibacterial properties, it also helps to keep your body sanitary and avoid infected sores.

8. Don't wear shoes.  Trust me.

What do the blisters look like? 
I will insert pictures of my blisters in a few days, or in another post.

Where do the blisters appear? 
Anywhere. Typically hands, feet, face, and inside the mouth and throat.  But if you're a lucky duck like me, everywhere. Neck, back, thighs, buttocks. Everywhere.

Something interesting to note is that some of my blisters appeared in areas that already had some kind of blemish.  I got blisters on my face where I had pimples, on my hand where I have callouses, on my leg where I had an ingrown hair, on minor scrapes on my hands, and on my feet where I have bunions.  I would be interested to know if anyone else had the same experience!

What does it feel like? 
At first, and towards the end, HFMD blisters felt like pins and needles.  They also felt itchy, and like my hands and feet were on fire.  My face and body did not feel any major pain, just itchiness.  My throat felt terrible.  Eating felt like swallowing glass.

How did you catch HFMD?
I either caught HFMD from prolonged exposure to a child who had it but had not developed symptoms, or I caught it from a brief 5 minute exposure to an infected child, whose mouth I wiped before rubbing my eye.  I don't know for sure.

Why is my skin peeling?
Welcome to the healing process!  It is common for two layers of skin to peel off after the HFMD blisters heal.  I read somewhere that it is unknown why, or if it is a side effect of the disease.  In my unprofessional opinion, YES it is caused by the disease, maybe even by the trauma caused to the skin by the blisters.  But I AM NOT A DOCTOR, so do not take my musing for facts. :)  Don't be alarmed when you can't see your fingerprints.  It's normal.  I'm pretty sure they grow back.

What should I expect after the blisters heal?
Click here and check out this forum.  I found it quite helpful.

After the blisters heal, you will be left with many scabs and peeling skin.  Don't pick them!  You will cause further scarring, or open up your skin to infection.  Also, I have found conflicting theories on whether or not the scabs or skin contains the virus, so be careful!  Take care to practice good hygiene.  I personally chose to trim the hanging dead skin, as I did not want it to get infected or torn off.  So far it has not had a negative impact on me, but I will let you know if it does! It will take a while for your skin to fully heal.

I also experience a phantom itch, which is probably just a psychological issue.  Maybe.  I'm really not sure.

It is rumored that hair and nails can also fall out.  

Can I get HFMD again?
Why yes, yes you can.  While you will become immune to the strain you have already had, HFMD is caused by several viruses/strains of viruses, and so you will still run the risk of catching the virus again.

Hope this helps!  I will update this post as I get more questions/answers!

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