New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard was recently placed on the disabled list because he contracted hand, foot and mouth disease.
It’s a short-term infection that’s mostly found in children younger than 5 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What is hand, foot and mouth disease?
Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common viral illness caused by several different types of viruses. It occurs mostly during the summer and early autumn.
How do people get sick?
Outbreaks of HFMD can occur in daycare centers, schools, or summer camps — wherever people gather. It’s possible that Syndergaard got his infection when he was in the group environment of a children’s baseball camp last week.
One way it’s passed is like the flu — through the air. A person may get it if they’re talking with someone who is sick with the disease and coughs or sneezes without covering their mouth.
It’s also transmitted by coming into close contact with someone who hasn’t washed their hands after using the bathroom.
What are the signs of an infection?
Symptoms typically start within three to five days of being in contact with someone who was sick.
The first signs usually are high fever, decreased appetite, sore throat, and an overall feeling of being tired and unwell.
Typically a few days after the fever, painful blisters can be seen in the mouth. This is called herpangina if it’s the only symptom, which can be the case for some small children.
At the same time, a skin rash can appear on the hands and feet, and sometimes even the buttocks in young children. The rash often looks like bright red dots, sometimes with clear blisters, which are contagious, and can be painful.
How do doctors treat it?
There’s no way to attack the virus itself. The most important thing is hydration and pain control with over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen that both work equally well.
The mouth sores can be very painful, and aside from popsicles and ice cream to soothe the throat, “magic mouthwash” can help, too, for both children over 4 years old and adults.
The magic mouthwash is a mix of a half teaspoon antacid liquid — like Maalox or Mylanta — with a half teaspoon diphenhydramine (that’s the drug found in Benadryl). After mixing both together, swish the solution around in the mouth and then spit it out.
Adults can also use oral anesthetic sprays that help with pain by numbing the mouth and throat.
If the rash lasts longer than two weeks, or if there’s only a rash on one side of the body, it may be another medical condition, so see a doctor.
How can someone avoid getting sick?
With these common viruses, good hand hygiene is always important.
Remind children to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. Adults should take that advice as well, especially after using the restroom or changing diapers.
Avoid sharing utensils or drinks with someone who is sick.
The good thing is, if someone gets the disease, it doesn’t last longer than two weeks.
That’s doubtless a relief for all the baseball fans who want to see Syndergaard back on the mound soon.
Dr. Stephanie Sophie Lee is a pediatrician and preventive medicine resident in South Carolina and a resident in the ABC News Medical Unit.