Monday, April 7, 2014

how to survive hand, foot, and mouth disease

In the last 10 days, our entire family contracted Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. It's basically Chicken Pox meets Strep Throat. You get a fever for a day or two, and then you break out in a rash that is particularly bad on your (surprise!) hands, feet, and mouth. But it's the inside of your mouth and your throat, making it nearly impossible to eat or speak.

We are all almost better. And now that I have 10 days' and 5 people's worth of experience on the subject, I thought I should write a short how-to guide for surviving this disease. Partly, I'm hoping this is helpful to other parents who may have Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease in their future, because it was hard for me to find real, practical tips for dealing with this. And partly, this is just personal therapy to put the last week behind me.

1. Adults can get this disease.

I was under some strange illusion that adults do not get Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Not true. When caring for a child with this disease, use caution and possibly surgical gloves and a face mask.

(I'm not kidding. You do not want to catch this sickness.)

2. Foods you can and cannot eat. 

If you contract this disease, this topic may become something of an obsession to you. In general, eating and drinking will feel like swallowing broken glass. But we found that the following general principles worked well:

Principle 1: Eat things made mostly from enriched white flour
Principle 2: Avoid acidic foods like citrus and sugary foods
Principle 3: A foods' softness or crunchiness doesn't always correlate with your ability to eat it

My favorite foods were soft white bread and butter (lots of butter), pita bread, pancakes, white cheddar Cheese-Its, chicken broth, vegetable broth, and smoothies from Jamba Juice. (These actually hurt a bit, but the cold help dull the pain and it was worth it)

3. Mouth sores aren't created equal.

We found high variance in level of discomfort in eating with our children. Xena (2 yrs) was totally unfazed. She spent one day with a fever and refusing any food, and the next day was pretty much better. Genghis (3 yrs) ate only popsicles for a few days (which were too painful for me to eat). And Isis (8 mos) seemed not too fussy about bottles but didn't want anything solid.

4. Warm baths feel great on the rash. 

Really, when is a warm bath not a good idea?

5. Don't try to get anything done while you are sick.

For me, this translated into watching Amazon Prime Instant Videos for hours on end after the kids went to bed. For Abe, this translated into wiring our living room with a web cam and Raspberry Pi to test out an idea he has in the realm of life hacking and quantified self.

To each his own.

For our children, this translated into about 10 feature length films while they were feverish, followed by days and days of boredom while we, the parents, took our turn being sick. I have no advice for how to get through this. Only the encouragement that you will survive. Really. You will. And the kids probably will too.


Megan said...

I had no idea that adults could get this. I hope that I do not need your tips any time soon.

Evelyn Richter said...

I had never even heard of this dicease, but I had chicken pox when I was 21, so I do feel with you. :) Get properly well soon!

Dawn said...

I didn't even realize this was a real illness. I always thought it was some ancient disease that mostly showed up in fiction. I'm so sorry your whole family had to go through that. Is it the kind of thing you can only catch once? I hope?

Sherry said...

I also didn't know that adults could get this. I'm sorry you had to go through it, and I hope I never need the info in this post.

The Lunds said...

So our whole town has experienced an outbreak of this just recently. Despite my best efforts my baby just started his rash phase. I'm reading this over and over to get some ideas on how to survive. Let's hope it doesn't spread to all 6 of us.