Hand, foot and mouth disease is a mild, short-lived viral disease that usually affects children under the age of six, and is characterized by blisters or sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet. Fist disease, paw has no long-term consequences, but it is highly contagious and your child may feel unwell for a short time.
Dr. Roger Henderson studies the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of hand and foot disease:
What is hand, foot disease?
Hand, foot, and foot disease (HFMD) is a common, mild, and short-lived viral disease that usually affects children and is caused by a group of viruses known as enteroviruses. The most common one that causes it is called Coxsackie virus A16 (CVA16), but other viruses that can cause it include enterovirus 71 (sometimes associated with severe nervous system infections), echovirus, and other multiple strains of Coxsackie virus.
Hand and foot diseases usually infect children under the age of 10, with the vast majority being six years old or younger. Older children and adults can be infected, but this is much less common – if it happens, it is usually in pregnant women, the elderly and people with poor immune systems.
Epidemics are often seen during the late summer or fall months when it can be affected by school hours.
Doctors sometimes refer to hand, foot and mouth disease as ‘enterovirus vesicular stomatitis’, but HFMD is not linked to a disease of a similar name that affects animals.
Symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease
As with many simple viral infections, when you have hand, foot, and foot disease, you usually feel unwell for a day or two, and the typical incubation period is three to six days. Other symptoms of hand and foot disease include:
- I feel bad
- Loss of appetite
- Sore throat
- Dots in the mouth
- A small ulcer on the mouth
After the initial symptoms, then spots may appear around the lips and mouth, and because they are painful the child may become unhappy and does not want to eat or drink.
In many cases, spots begin to appear on the skin a day or two after sores appear on the mouth. They are seen on the arms and legs (hence the name of the disease), and can also develop on the buttocks, genitals and legs. They look like spotted shrimp although they are smaller and do not itch.
The fever and stains then slowly subside over several days, with the ulcer on the mouth being last cleaned up.
The diagnosis of hand disease is made on the basis of clinical findings and rarely requires special tests or investigations.
Transmission of diseases of the hands, paws and mouth
Most cases of diseases of the hands, feet and mouth are transmitted by droplet transmission from coughing and sneezing, so the person is transmitted by contact with infected saliva, nasal secretions and respiratory drops. It most commonly occurs in young children because of toilet training, infected diapers, and because young children often put their hands in their mouths.
Hand disease, paw is usually contagious until all the stains are cleared, but children can still pass it a few weeks after the symptoms resolve, so it is reasonable to take certain precautions to reduce the risk of passing on.
How to stop the spread of diseases of the hands, mouth and mouth
Diseases of the hands, mouth and legs are highly contagious. Try the following steps to prevent the spread of hand, mouth, and mouth disease:
- Make sure children wash their hands well after going to the toilet.
- Adults should wash their hands thoroughly after changing diapers and before preparing food.
- Wash dirty bedding, towels and clothes of an infected child in a hot cycle.
- Regularly disinfect common areas such as kitchens and living areas, as well as common items such as toys.
- Teach children not to put their fingers in their mouths if possible.
- Don’t be tempted to squeeze or puncture any blisters – the fluid in them is contagious and can cause the infection to spread.
Treatment of diseases of the hands, paws
There is usually no need for specific treatment for paw and hand disease, and there is no treatment, antiviral agent or vaccination for it. The goal of any treatment is to support the relief of any symptoms that may be present until it is removed on its own. The treatment is the same for any age and includes the following:
✔️ Keep the temperature down
If your child has a high temperature, use paracetamol or ibuprofen in the recommended age doses, keep bedding and clothing very light and use a room fan if necessary.
It was previously recommended that the use of a cold sponge can help lower the high temperature, but this is no longer the case as it can worsen and is often uncomfortable for the child.
✔️ Stay hydrated
Drink enough fluids to stay well hydrated. Mouth pain found in HFMD can sometimes make it difficult for young children, so use painkillers before offering them a drink. If you are breastfeeding, keep it up, as this is an excellent fluid replacement.
✔️ Treat sore mouth
Sore mouth can be the worst symptom for many children. Several ways to relieve sore mouths in children include:
- Soft foods like ice cream, jellies, soups and mashed potatoes.
- Use a numbing local anesthetic gel called Lidocaine in your mouth.
- Give ibuprofen or paracetamol regularly.
- Use a mouth spray called Benzidamine to relieve pain and discomfort. It can be used on children aged 5 and over, and there is also a mouthwash that can be used from the age of 12. Bonjela gel can be used for people over 16 years of age (but not for pregnant women).
- Regular warm mouthwash can reduce discomfort, but always make sure your child is old enough to spit it out.
Should I keep my child out of school?
It used to be thought important to keep a child with hand, mouth and mouth ailments out of school, but now we know that’s not the case. Current guidelines are that infected children should not be routinely kept out of school if they feel well enough to attend it. However, their school should be informed that they are infected and if they feel too ill to go to school, they should be kept away until they recover.
When to visit a doctor about diseases of the hands, feet and mouth
HFMD is usually relatively mild that medical opinion is unnecessary, but if your child has not been able to drink due to sores on their mouth, seek medical advice. If they do not seem to improve after a few days or if your symptoms worsen, talk to your doctor.
Diseases of the hands, feet and mouth during pregnancy
There is usually no risk to pregnancy or the baby, but it is best to avoid close contact with anyone who has diseases of the hands, feet and mouth.
If you are pregnant and become infected with hand, foot and paw disease a month or less before your due date, visit your GP as this can sometimes be passed on to your baby when it is born, and midwives should be aware of this possibility.
Last update: 22-04-2021
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