With Philadelphia in the midst of another heat wave, many children seek relief in fountains, pools and spray parks. But local doctors are warning that the water is helping to spread a highly contagious disease that puts children, particularly infants and toddlers, at risk.
It’s called hand, foot and mouth disease, and it's caused by the coxsackie virus. Symptoms of hand, foot and mouth include fever, headache, loss of appetite and painful blisters that form on the palms of hands, soles of feet and lips -- hence the name (not to be confused with foot-and-mouth disease, a virus that can cause lockjaw in cattle and be fatal).
Doctors say children spread it in fountains, pools daycares, playgrounds and at home. They also say it’s extremely contagious among toddlers who haven’t been exposed to the virus before.
“It’s ubiquitous,” said Dr. Wenonah Nelson, a pediatrician at Bryn Mawr Hospital. “It spreads all over the place. It’s spread by respiratory droplet and probably spread by fecal route. So we ask people to be careful about hand wiping after diaper changes.”
Brooke Mailhiot of Mount Laurel, NJ says her 9-month-old son Chase was diagnosed with the virus.
“He had a loss of appetite and was very fatigued,” she said.
Mailhiot believes her son caught the virus after playing at a water park. Doctors also say however that children can catch it by picking up a shared toy that went from hand to mouth.
“The kids put everything in their mouth,” she said. “I just carry anti-bacterial wipes and wipe everything down.”
Doctors say the virus is rarely life-threatening and normally lasts about a week. They recommend parents follow Mailhiot’s example and wipe toys down with anti-bacterial wipes. They also say it can be treated with over the counter pain relievers. Other than that, they say, it’s best to just let it run its course.