Doctor warns public to test for COVID-19 amid spike in hand, foot and mouth disease

·4 min read
A Toronto paediatrician is advising anyone with a skin rash or mouth lesions to get tested for COVID-19. (Photo via Getty images)
A Toronto paediatrician is advising anyone with a skin rash or mouth lesions to get tested for COVID-19. (Photo via Getty images)

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A Toronto-based paediatrician is urging anyone with a skin rash or mouth lesion to get tested for COVID-19 — and to not just assume it’s hand, foot and mouth disease.

Dr. Dina Kulik says she’s noticed a spike in cases of hand, foot and mouth disease not just in children, but teens and adults as well, which is not as common.

“This happened a few hundred times [one week] where hand, foot and mouth disease was in the family, COVID was in the family," Kulik tells Yahoo Canada. "When I was asking my patients to test for COVID if they had hand, foot and mouth disease symptoms in the family, many of them were testing positive.”

While Kulik says it’s possible some people could have both infections, she’s worried the rashes could be a “manifestation of COVID.”

What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a mild, contagious viral infection that is caused by the coxsackievirus and common in children under five-years-old—but anyone can get it.

The most common symptoms of hand, food and mouth disease include a sore in the mouth and a skin rash on the hands and feet.

“Some kids have rash everywhere; some kids have a rash in just a small area and these pimples come up over a few days and then they scab and then they go away,” Kulik explains.

The illness spreads through physical contact with an infected person’s:

  • Nasal secretions or throat discharge

  • Saliva

  • Fluid from blisters

  • Stool

  • Respiratory droplets sprayed into the air after a cough or sneeze

The disease is not usually serious, but is very contagious and spreads quickly at day care centres and at schools.

The typical period from initial infection to the beginning of symptoms is three to six days.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is highly contagious. (Image via Getty Images)
Hand, foot and mouth disease is highly contagious. (Image via Getty Images)

Are skin rashes a symptom of COVID-19?

While a skin rash is commonly associated with hand, foot and mouth disease, the World Health Organization lists it as a less common symptom of COVID-19.

“A rash is not typically associated with COVID-19 other than with MIS-C or Kawasaki Disease, later more worrisome complications of COVID,” Kulik tells Yahoo Canada.

Over the past few weeks Kulik says she’s seen a trend of COVID presenting like hand, foot and mouth disease in many kids and adults, which is worrisome.

Kulik recently tweeted that she fears that if people believe it's "just" hand, foot and mouth disease people won't get tested for COVID-19 and could potentially "expose others" to the virus while they're still contagious.

“I raised the bell to alert families that potentially what they think is the run of the mill virus that is contagious, but not risky in terms of COVID, could actually be a manifestation of COVID perhaps a new strain or a new wave that it’s presenting in kids and adults," she adds.

Testing for COVID if you have a skin rash

Kulik, who is also the founder of the paediatric medical clinic Kidcrew, is now urging anyone with mouth lesions or skin rashes to get tested for COVID-19 and to isolate for at least five days so they don’t risk exposing others to the virus.

“If a child has typical hand, foot and mouth disease when they’re feeling better, we send them back to daycare or school, the workplace etc.," she explains.

When doing a test, Kulik says to make sure to not just swab the nostrils, but include the back of both cheeks, back of the tongue, both sides of the throat and both nostrils all with the same swab to get a more reliable result.

If you’re at all concerned about your child’s illness, Kulik recommends following up with your family doctor or paediatrician.

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