Q: My 3-year-old son has hand, foot and mouth disease. I’m five months pregnant; could this be dangerous for my baby?
A: Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a viral infection that’s most common among young children. It typically causes a fever, painful sores in the mouth, and a red, blisterlike rash on the palms and soles but is usually not serious. HFMD is less common among adults because they often have antibodies from previous viral infections. Even if you do become infected, your baby will likely be fine; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no clear evidence that HFMD causes any adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as miscarriage or birth defects. However, women who contract the infection close to delivery may pass it to their babies. These cases are typically mild, but can, rarely, be serious, even fatal. Because of this possibility, you should wash your and your son’s hands often; clean his toys regularly with soap and water and then disinfect them with a mild bleach solution; and avoid close contact or sharing utensils with him. If you do start to show symptoms, call your doctor. “A pregnant woman’s immunological response is naturally inhibited,” says Gideon Koren, M.D., founding director of the Motherisk program at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. “Even if a woman feels OK, she should not regard any illness as a simple infection.”