Surviving Hand, Foot & Mouth

Ah, the joys of childhood illnesses that you never knew existed until you had little ones.

Hand, Foot and Mouth disease? Isn’t that something that cattle get..? Turns out that’s something entirely different.

After consulting Dr Google I discover that HF&M is a viral infection which causes symptoms including: fever, a sore throat and a lack of desire to eat, as well as super nasty blisters. I also discovered that it mostly affects the under 10s and particularly the under 5s, so when Elliott was ish-diagnosed I thought I was safe. Ha, ha – more fool me and my crap immune system.

Here’s how we survived…

Symptoms & Diagnosis


Let’s face it a 17-month-old toddler can’t tell you they’ve got a sore throat, so all I had to go on was the fact that Elliott was super-grumpy, warmer than usual (although not in fever territory), had red cheeks, was sleepier than normal, had a runny nose and was off his food – in fact he didn’t want anything in his mouth, which made administering Calpol an absolute mare! With these symptoms I assumed he was teething. Admittedly it did seem out of character for Elliott to be this poorly as a result of teething, but I just assumed a nasty big molar was the culprit.

I was still blatantly naive when Elliott’s first blister popped up on the bottom of his lower lip and just put it down to the fact that he had been using his dummy more – that was about the only thing he would allow in his mouth!

He was scream-the-house-down grumpy on Saturday, a little better on Sunday morning but still not himself, followed by scream-the-house-down the sequel on the evening and then just off-colour on Monday. On Tuesday I took him into nursery to discover there had been two cases of HF&M over the weekend. Even when I got the phone call from the nursery asking me to pick him up as they suspected he had HF&M I didn’t really believe it. There was a sore in his nappy now too, but it didn’t seem to be causing him any discomfort and from the photos I’d seen on Dr Google you got lots of blisters, right..?

A visit to the doctor concluded that Elliott had “a viral infection, probably Hand, Foot and Mouth if that’s going around at the moment…” – Thanks for the clarity there doctor, still, Elliott got two stickers, so at least he was happy. More blisters came out on Elliott’s hands over the following days, but nothing too major. Maybe we were fortunate that he had a pretty mild case? So for Elliott it was fluey/teething symptoms first and then once they had passed the blisters came. He still has a few blisters now but seems fine in himself and is demolishing his meals with gusto again so…


Shivers, a loss of appetite and feeling slightly nauseous were the first signs that something was wrong with me. At first I attributed this to rushing around and leaving a sauna of an office for the cool outdoors. Ah, I really am so naive aren’t I? Even as I sat there next to the radiator shivering whilst  wearing a dress, tights, a hoody and furry slippers I tried to persuade myself that I wasn’t ill. That evening I didn’t fancy dinner and instead decided to have a nap on the couch. I ended up there for most of the night in a slightly delirious feverish state.

The following day my symptoms were cold like – lethargy, a runny nose, a sore throat, a bit of a cough. I tried to rest as much as I could to ride out the storm. On the evening I noticed a prickly feeling on the inside of my lower lip with some small bumps – uh oh! By the end of the evening I had a full on blister to the side of my mouth, one on my lower lip and one on the bridge of my nose, with more and more popping up inside my mouth. Joy!

I woke up the next day looking like Lesley Ash post fillers but otherwise just feeling as if I had a bad cold. I worked from home but lacked energy and my mouth and throat were sore to swallow anything too coarse. Anything too sour or spicy made my tongue feel prickly, a bit like stinging nettles. The blisters spread so I had a few more on my face and also on my hands. These continued coming up the following day along with a strange painful feeling in my fingers or toes when I picked things up – it was as if I had tiny papercuts on my fingertips, which I didn’t – in fact I didn’t even have any blisters where the pain was – very strange.

Now my blisters are starting to heal – the biggest one near to my mouth has crusted over and looks gross, the others are slowly fading and my cold symptoms are getting better but still there. Today is day 4 of HF&M for me. The back of my mouth and my throat still feel a bit like they’re being attacked by stinging nettles when I eat though, which for someone who loves food isn’t much fun.

Time off nursery/work?


Weirdly, one of the reasons the nursery wanted me to take Elliott to the doctors was to confirm that it was HF&M, because if it was he was OK to return to nursery. This goes against what it says on the NHS website, but what do I know? To be fair he was at his worst at the weekend, so by Wednesday he was fine to go back to nursery with his other HF&M buddies.


I took a day out of the office to work from home. 1. Because I didn’t want to infect my work colleagues 2. Because I looked like Lesley Ash post fillers and no one needed to see that 3. I had been so run down since the start of October that just pushing on through wasn’t going to work for me – I needed to slow things down a bit. Something I’ve been doing ever since that first blister appeared!


There isn’t really a ‘treatment’ for HF&M exactly. No miracle cure. Elliott had Calpol and cuddles whilst I relied on cold and flu relief tablets and slapped some Zovirax on the biggest blister on my lip (NOTE: There’s some debate as to whether Zovirax is a suitable treatment for HF&M sores. But I was willing to give anything a try). Other than that it’s just a case of riding it out.

My other survival tips…

  • Have this Baby Sensory video on YouTube lined up for when your toddler hits meltdown mode.
  • Consider purchasing one of these dummies to administer Calpol if your toddler is struggling with the dosing stick because of their sore mouth.
  • Sometimes only In The Night Garden and cuddles on the sofa will do.
  • Keep your toddler and yourself hydrated.
  • Soft, cool food is where it’s at – think endless Fromage Frais.
  • Don’t plan anything exciting – if toddler has HF&M you may well be confined to the sofa newborn style for a while, if you have it you’re probably not going to want to go partying on a soft play playdate.
  • If you’ve got it you will want to keep your lips moisturised but might not want to get your blister germs into you usual lip balm – I purchased a tub of cheapo Vaseline to smother on and dispose of once my blisters are gone – likewise I avoided make-up whilst my blisters were at their worst to avoid contaminating my brushes and products. I also avoided using my Clarisonic, instead gently using a flannel and cleansing balm to gently clean my face.
  • Be kind to yourself – if you feel ill try to get a break and have a rest. It’s tough when you’re a working mum, or just a mum, or just a person in general these days – we’re all so busy but try to get some support with little one and leave anything that isn’t urgent.

Stock up on Kleenex Balsam for the inevitable runny nose!

Don’t worry you will make it through the other side 🙂 x


4 thoughts on “Surviving Hand, Foot & Mouth

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