ANDERSON — Stephany Finney said she looks for signs of a viral infection spreading throughout child care centers and preschool on a daily basis.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is a contagious illness on the rise in Indiana. The disease often spreads in the United States during the summer months and is named after the places where a blistering rash can form on the body.
“It’s honestly spreading like wildfire through child care and even preschools, just everywhere kids can come into contact with it,” said Finney, owner of Little Ladybug Learning Center, 802 Old Orchard Road
Finney said two of her children contracted the illness when they were little and she is familiar with the disease.
“It was the worse three months of my life,” Finney said. “For literally 10 days, they are not happy with the world. It’s so sad and there is nothing you can really do except give them Motrin and Tylenol.”
There is no vaccine to protect against the disease, which is spread through nose, mouth and throat secretions or contact with open sores or the stool of someone infected with the virus. The disease usually affects infants and children younger than 5; however, adults can get the illness.
Finney said her son had the virus back-to-back.
“Doctors will tell you it’s usually one and done, and if you have had it once, you won’t get it again like chicken pox, but no,” she said. “He had it twice.”
Finney said she was a stay-at-home mom when her son contracted the illness and believes he was exposed to the virus when she took him grocery shopping.
“You can get it from a shopping cart, I mean anywhere,” she said. “If your kid has blisters that have not scabbed over and their parents take them to the grocery store and they sit in the cart and have their hands on it, another kid sits in there and it literally spreads like wildfire.”
Laura Littlejohn, a pediatric nurse practitioner at St. Vincent Anderson, said the virus is “going around.” She said the disease can present itself in a variety of different ways and is contagious before signs even appear.
“It typically starts with a fever and then often the next sign is a sore throat and kind of feeling unwell,” said Littlejohn. “It’s so hard not to spread because you are the most contagious before you start showing any symptoms.”
Littlejohn said the disease is very common and, in rare cases, the complications can be life-threatening.
“Overwhelmingly, kids will do OK with it, but it looks extreme,” she said. “It looks way scarier than it is.”
Littlejohn said she contracted the disease about two years ago and, even though the rash is not supposed to be painful, she found herself experiencing pain walking barefoot across the carpet. She tells parents to watch for signs of discomfort and push fluids after giving pain medicines when children might be inclined to drink more.
“If you feel like you need to come in for an appointment, you can, but mostly it’s supportive care,” Littlejohn said for the treatment.
In addition to watching for signs of the disease, Finney says her staff frequently washes their hands and the hands of the children who have a diaper changed.
“I try to really keep an eye on it because once it’s in here, it will probably spread to every kid,” she said. “I sanitize nightly, toys and everything. I don’t know why it spreads so quickly, but if you have multiple children in a facility, they are pretty much all going to get it.”