Each week, OMRF Vice President of Research Dr. Rod McEver opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel.
Here’s a question from a coworker:
My preschooler and I recently had hand, foot and mouth disease. I’ve read that some people lose fingernails and toenails after recovering. When will my household’s nails be in the clear, and now that we’ve been through this once, are we immune?
Dr. McEver Prescribes
Hand, foot and mouth disease is common in young children, but anyone can contract it. The illness is most common in the U.S. in warmer months. Although it’s usually not serious, it’s very contagious.
The condition is marked by cold-like symptoms, throat pain, fever, a blistering rash on the hands and feet, and sores in the mouth. A group of viruses called enteroviruses cause the disease. Some strains lead to more severe symptoms than others.
Many illnesses and infections can cause changes to our nails and skin. In hand, foot and mouth disease, some patients have developed nail deformations known as “Beau’s lines,” deep grooves that span the nail’s width. In rare cases, patients report shedding fingernails or toenails. Reports of this are largely in children, with nail loss occurring one to two months after the acute infection. In most cases, nails usually grow back on their own.
Peeling skin, especially on the fingers and toes, is also common in the weeks following recovery. If this happens, allow the skin to slough off naturally, as picking at it may lead to an infection.
Because many viruses can lead to hand, foot and mouth disease, contracting it once does not confer long-term immunity. The viruses that cause the disease are primarily spread through contact with saliva, respiratory droplets and fluid from blisters. To avoid future bouts, encourage your daughter to practice good hygiene and handwashing at school.
Do you have a health query for Dr. McEver? Email email@example.com and your question may be answered in a future column!