I have five words for you: Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD).
From the CDC (Centers for Disease Control):
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old. However, it can sometimes occur in adults. Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease include fever, blister-like sores in the mouth (herpangina), and a skin rash.
Doesn’t sound horrible right? I mean, canker sores and a rash. Big whoop. WRONG. SO VERY WRONG.
Imagine a canker sore. It’s painful and annoying. Now imagine that your ENTIRE MOUTH is covered in canker sores. And that skin rash? Mostly on the hands and on the bottom of your feet so hit hurts to walk.
Both Hubbs and Sean came down HFMD last week. It started on Thursday, when Sean “had a hard day” at day care, according to his teachers. He didn’t want to participate. He was tired. Kind of like a zombie. They thought he was either sleep deprived or possibly coming down with something. When I brushed his teeth that night, he pulled away, saying “my teef hurt.” I worried that he might be getting a cavity or that he had a canker sore, because he bites his lip. That same day, Hubbs was complaining of canker sores that had popped up in his mouth and that holy bejeezus they were painful. I looked in his mouth but didn’t see anything — and teased him for putting too much hot sauce on his food.
In the morning (Friday), Sean seemed fine — no fever, no complaints, so on to day care he went. But when Hubbs picked him up, day care said they thought he might have HFMD, because 1. It was going around and 2. he was complaining of his mouth hurting and that his feet hurt. Hubbs mentioned it to me when I got homr and while I was on the phone making an appointment with the pediatric night clinic, he peeled his socks off because HIS feet were hurting — revealing red, raised bumps all over.
Thirty minutes later all four of us were sitting in an exam room at the night clinic. We walked out with the following knowledge:
- Hubbs and Sean had HFMD.
- Hubbs was more advanced, so he caught it first.
- Sean was contagious for 7 days, which meant staying home all the next week.
- Allie would most likely get it too.
- HFMD starts with malaise — not feeling well, being very tired. Then moves to the mouth and then to the rash.
- Its HIGHLY contagious, so stock up on soap and instant hand sanitizer.
- Its spread through body fluids — saliva, mucous, urine, and feces.
- For the safety of the free world we should stay in the house as much as possible.
- He had seen 2 patients already that night and they both had HFMD. This year’s strain is new and infecting parents as well. Hubbs was the first person over 12 the doctor had seen with it.
- The only thing we could really do for Sean was to give him Tylenol for pain management. Nothing else.
That night — and for the next 7 nights — I slept on the couch to minimize my exposure. For the next four nights I was awakened every 2 hours by a screaming 3-year-old, who was still more than half-asleep and crazy with pain — trying to shove his hands into his mouth to remove whatever was hurting him. At first, ice water helped, then it didn’t. One night, in desperation, I called the night nurse line to see if there was anything — ANYTHING — I could do to help him with the pain. She suggested I try to put 1/2 tsp of maalox between the front of his teeth and his lip. It’s supposed to promote blister healing and help with the pain.
Ten minutes later I was covered in maalox and was dealing with a hysterical 3-year-old.
I retreated to the couch and he fell back asleep.
By Sunday, Hubbs and I had a plan. I would telecommute on Monday and Tuesday, while he called out sick and watched the kids. He was too sick to go into work anyway, and my work situation had someone on vacation, and another person out for surgery. Then I would call out sick Wednesday to Friday.
Monday-Tuesday went something like this:
9 a.m.: Me hiding in the master bedroom with my laptop and coffee.
9:45 a.m.: (knocking on the door — Allie’s voice) “Mama? Mama?”
9:46 a.m.: (Hubbs) “Come on honey, nobody is in there.”
10:30 a.m.: (my work phone rings)
10:31 a.m.: (Allie again) “Mama? Mama?” (Pause) “On? ON!” (<- Allie speak for Sean)
(door handle jiggles, then opens revealing both kids.) Sean: “Mommy!” Allie: “Mama!”
Both kids pounce on the bed, me, and want to play with the laptop. I compromise by putting a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode on Hubbs’ computer and settle back on the bed to work.
10:40 a.m.: (Sean) “Mommy? I thirsty.”
(Sean): “Mommy? I want juice. Mommy? Owie want juice too.”
(Me): “OK.” (goes to get two sippy cups)
10:45 a.m.: (Sean) “Mommy? I want cookie.”
(Allie) “Coogee! Me!”
(Me): “Does Allie want a cookie too?”
(Sean & Allie): “Yes.”
(Me): “What do you say?”
(Me): “OK.” (Goes and gets cookies)
11 a.m.: (Sean) “Mommy? I watch Kermit the Frog.”
After working an additional three hours after putting the kids to bed on Tuesday, Wednesday finally rolled around and I was able to give them my full attention. I also took them to their regular pediatrician because Allie’s eczema was just out of control and I wasn’t sure if it was eczema or HFMD or something new. It was eczema (thank you!), and we decided to get more aggressive with our treatment and figuring out what can be causing it. So we are now cutting off her dairy intake. No milk. No cheese. No yogurt. Soy only. She also got a new steroid cream for trouble spots and we’re using a new moisturizer — CeraVe cream.
While we were there, she also took a look at Sean. According to her, he had a “mild” case of HFMD, because his symptoms were limited to his mouth. She had patients who couldn’t walk because the rash on their feet was too painful. On others, the rash was causing their fingernails to fall off. I know.
After that, we had to go to Target, because as of 7 a.m. I was officially OUT of baby Tylenol and I needed to pick up the new creams for Allie’s hands and get her some soy milk. So how do you get around that whole contagious thing? Since the main contaminator was saliva, I put both kids in the double stroller, buckled them in, and handed them their own toys.
And then I practically ran through the store.
Fast forward to Friday. Sean is 100%. Allie NEVER got sick. She must have an angel holding a bubble around her or something, because I was bracing for it all week and it never came. On Saturday, we went to the zoo — to treat ourselves for being cramped up in the house for 7 straight days.
By the way, my house LOOKS like we were trapped inside for 7 days. (Translation: If a bomb went off inside, you wouldn’t be able to tell.) Also? I’m exhausted.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Guess who threw his breakfast up all over the dining room on Wednesday morning? Little man. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. He threw up, and as I was trying to clean him up, he turned, looked at me, and asked in a very small voice, “Mommy? I go see doctor?”
Turns out there’s a “tummy bug” going around. It lasts 24-72 hours. High points are vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and malaise. He slept most of yesterday, alternating between the couch and his bed. I was actually able to work as well. We’re about 12 hours from the last time he vomited, so we’re probably in the clear by now.
That being said, when he threw up yesterday, I wanted to give the heavens the finger. I mean, really. REALLY?! The boy is exhausted from all he’s been through, and frankly so am I.
Pro tip for vomiting children: Pedialite pops. Our pediatrician told us about them. Its like a Pedialite otter pop. It helps with vomiting because it keeps them hydrated, but it also makes it easier to pace them with the intake. If I give the kids regular Pedialite, they’re prone to guzzle it and, consequently, throw up again. Not so with the pops.
Pro tip No. 2 for vomiting kids: Put the Pedialite pops in your blender or food processor to chop it up into the consistency of shave ice/slushee. Serve in a bowl with a spoon. Great for hot days too. Makes it even easier to eat and little hands don’t get too cold holding the popsicle. (Also makes it easier for you to feed them if they’re camped out on the couch and are barely moving.)