What follows is a description of the progress of a disease. It’s nothing especially gruesome, but feel free to skip it if you’re feeling squeamish. I merely present our experience in the hopes that it will prove to be of use or interest to someone.
So it’s been about a month now since our run-in with hand, foot, and, mouth disease (hereafter HFMD) began. First the kid got a fever and was sent home, then that developed into a rash. This seemed like a normal diaper rash at first, but then it spread out with scattered red bumps on his legs and hands.
On Thursday his daycare sent him home again, with a warning that the rash might be HFMD and instructions to bring him in again when the rash was gone… and that was the day when I got the fever. I spent the morning feeling sluggish, and in the afternoon and evening, it was a struggle to remain useful or even conscious at times. When I called the pediatrician’s office, they told me that there wasn’t really anything that we needed to do for the kid beyond wait out his rash – that the virus is most contagious during the incubation and fever stages, that there aren’t any real treatments yet aside from managing symptoms. That, at least, was a relief.
My fever broke around 10pm on the same evening. About a day later, the actual hand-foot-and-mouth part set in. First there were scattered large blisters, about the size of a bean (in various sizes, so go ahead and imagine mixed beans, if you were about to get sassy!), on my hands and feet. This was followed a day or two later by an intense swarm of smaller red bumps, mostly on the knuckles of my hands. It became really unpleasant to touch… pretty much anything, including water. This peaked probably on the following Sunday. Which, coincidentally, was the day my wife came down with the fever and spent most of the day in bed. Fun times were had by everyone!
I spend as much time barefoot as I can (mostly in our apartment), and I guess thanks to that, the foot blisters weren’t as bad as the ones on my hands. The skin of my feet was simply tough enough to protect me from some of the sensitivity, and thick fuzzy socks helped as well, so that I was able to walk around. The only exception is a couple blisters that formed between my toes, which were more or less constantly unpleasant. But the main issue was the hands. I had to wash them at intervals throughout the day, and do various tasks to take care of the kid, and I actually managed to get some typing done because that was somehow okay. (Holding a pen or pencil, on the other hand, was right out.) Aside from the sensitivity, there was simply the matter of my hands looking pretty awful… I spent about a week doing my best to keep them hidden when I was out in public, just to avoid freaking people out.
Things generally got better after that. The kid was able to go back to daycare on Monday. Also from Monday, my own rash began to recede – starting with the bigger blisters that had appeared first – into flat dark-red patches. (I assume they were something along the lines of pools of lymph fluid, and my body’s defenses were dealing with them.) By the end of the second week, I was pretty much back to normal functioning.
Ever since then, though, we’ve been riding the long tail of the disease. The blistered areas grew new skin, and as they did so the old skin began peeling off – first one my hands, then on my feet. As I write this, my hands are essentially back to normal, but my feel are still peeling in patches. It’s not painful or especially unpleasant, just a little weird-looking and inconvenient.
All in all, I wouldn’t recommend catching HFMD if you can help it. It’s not the worst out there by a long shot, but it is intensely inconvenient for several days, and its aftereffects can linger for weeks. The good news is that apparently antiviral treatments for it are being developed.