The first time both our boys came down with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) was when the older one was about 3 years old and the younger one, just under a year old. I had heard of HFMD, but had never imagined it would happen to my own kids. It was my older boy who developed it first, followed by the baby.
During the first episode, both boys had fever for a few days accompanied by a slight runny nose. The rash came a day later and it was mainly on the palms and feet, although our baby had some on his arms and legs too. The rashes were not itchy or painful and they were hardly bothered by them. However, they were not quite their usual cheery selves and the baby, especially, lost his appetite.
Having read up extensively about HFMD, I knew just what to do. After seeing the doctor, I informed the child care centre so that they were aware and could monitor the other kids more closely. My husband and I took turns to stay with the kids at home and entertain them. It was no easy feat managing two active boys in a small flat for two whole weeks. We had to come up with all sorts of games to keep them occupied. But we knew that resting at home was very important to help them recover. We also did not want HFMD to spread to others. We were so glad when the kids recovered without any complications and we could all go out again!
Imagine our horror when again, almost exactly one year later, the older one, who was by then in a kindergarten, came home with a fever. Initially, I thought it was viral flu. But then, there were a couple of suspicious looking red bumps on one of his palms. “It can’t be!” I thought.
Unfortunately, it was. The next day, there were many more little bumps on his limbs and also on his buttocks. The doctor confirmed that it was HFMD. He also confirmed that HFMD infection could strike the same person more than once. Even if he had immunity to the virus that caused the first episode, he could still get HFMD again from another virus. It was then that I found out that HFMD could be caused by different viruses.
Even as we braced ourselves for another two weeks at home, our younger son, now almost 2 years old, developed a fever. And very soon he had the HFMD rash too. It was quite extensive this time – on his buttocks, hands, feet, arms and legs. Thankfully, again, neither of the boys had severe mouth ulcers. Although their appetites were rather poor, we were able to coax them to have frequent drinks and their favourite foods. The two weeks at home were, needless to say, quite challenging, but my husband and I were determined to be responsible parents.
Looking back on those two episodes, we are happy that our kids did not spread HFMD to others. During both episodes, we were vigilant and suspected HFMD early. We kept the boys at home and away from school (and all public areas) until they were fully recovered. As a result there were no other cases at our older son’s pre-schools during each of his episodes.