One Vacation, Three Kids and HFMD

Lead Image: Dolores Au

What's worse than travelling with a sick child? Travelling with three sick children.

Our three youngest fell victim to the much-detested Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) last December while on our annual vacation and ski trip to Los Angeles. 

Fortunately for us, their symptoms were mild to moderate and thankfully never developed into the extreme full-blown cases we hear about but all the symptoms were there: fevers, mouth sores and blisters on the hands and feet.

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HFMD typically affects children – infants and children under five years old being the most susceptible to the disease but HFMD does not discriminate – it can affect just about anyone, including adults.

How do you spot the signs of HFMD?

Some kids get a low grade fever one or two days before blisters are spotted in and around the mouth, on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. General symptoms include reduced appetite, malaise and sore throat. 

However, none of my kids had fevers, at first; they were eating well and still drove me half-crazy with their hyperactivity – clearly HFMD was the last thing on my mind. When blisters appeared on my five-year-old’s palms, I brushed it off as an allergy or rash.


Shortly after, I noticed the same blisters appearing on her feet, I then knew we were facing more than a common rash and before we knew it, kid number four (the three-year-old) and kid number five (the two-year-old) were presenting the same infernal rashes.

"Shortly after, I noticed the same blisters appearing on her feet, I then knew we were facing more than a common rash..."

How do you get HFMD?

The Ministry of Health’s website states that the incubation period (time from exposure of virus to development of symptoms) for HFMD is between three and five days and can range from two days to two weeks.

HFMD spreads from an infected person to others through:

  • close personal contact, such as kissing or hugging
  • the air through coughing and sneezing
  • contact with an infected person’s faeces
  • touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them

So, I am guessing that my five-year-old caught the virus back home in Singapore, maybe from school or from one of the parties she attended.

Can we keep HFMD away from our children?

Bad news: There is no vaccine to prevent HFMD. The good news is, there are things you can do to prevent the spread of the disease. The responsibility is yours as a parent to practise good hygiene and to teach your children these preventative methods:

  • Parents and child minders should always wash and sanitise their hands after changing diapers or touching any surface around the child that may expose them to saliva, faeces or other bodily fluids.
  • Teach your child to always cover their mouth with tissue paper when they cough or sneeze, and to dispose of it immediately. Then wash their hands with soap and water.
  • Do not share items that can transfer bodily fluid from one person to the next, such as: towels, eating utensils, and toothbrushes.
  • Disinfect all surfaces  including toys, beddings, furniture.
  • Protect other children in the house by keeping them away from the infected child.

"I for one am thankful that all three little ones weren’t the worse for wear..."

Ok. You tried everything but your little one still got it. What do you do?

The smart thing – do not panic. Seek medical attention and let the disease run its course.

Help your child feel better by alleviating the symptoms – your doctor will prescribed medication to help with this (all that attention from mummy will work wonders too!). Keep your little one rested, hydrated and confined to the home for the duration of the illness or until your doctor gives the all-clear. 

If your child is already going to school, it is imperative that you inform the school so that they can take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread and notify all the parents of students and the Ministry of Health.

I for one am thankful that all three little ones weren’t the worse for wear and that they had it together so I did not have to quarantine them from each other.

I got down on my knees and together with the hubby, we aired, cleaned and disinfected every surface in the house while keeping my fingers (and toes!) crossed for both my husband and I to not fall victim to this pesky bug.

For me, HFMD sounded worse than it actually was (we got lucky). My kids and I still got to enjoy our family holiday and had the time of our lives.

Editor’s Note: The writer’s children showed signs of the disease a few days AFTER they reached their vacation destination.

Upon the discovery of HFMD, the children were brought to a doctor and quarantined at their holiday home until they were given the all clear. Only then did they leave the house and enjoy the rest of their vacation. 

The family who have a holiday home in LA, spent three months in LA at the time.

Please head to the Ministry of Health more information on HFMD and a list of schools affected by the virus. Has you family gone through a bout of HFMD? We’d love to hear your story, email us!

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