Hand Foot Mouth Disease
Hand foot and mouth disease is a common childhood ailment that causes sores to appear on the mouth, hands and feet. In some cases, lesions can be seen on a child’s legs and butt. The symptoms of hand foot and mouth disease can make it uncomfortable for the child to swallow any kind of food. Parents should not be alarmed of hand foot and mouth disease since this will usually go away after about 7 days.
Who are affected?
Children are susceptible to hand foot and mouth disease during the summer and fall months. Parents should note that hand foot and mouth disease is not the same as foot and mouth disease in animals. These diseases may be almost similar in name but they are entirely different in the type of viruses.
How does it spread?
The virus that causes hand foot and mouth disease can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. When a toddler has hand foot and mouth disease, other members of the family are at risk of getting the disease as well. Parents may be infected when they come in contact with the infected fecal matter while changing a diaper.
Since hand foot and mouth disease is highly contagious, it can spread across the community in just a few days. Even if the infected has no more blisters and sores in the mouth, the virus is still present in the stool. The virus can survive in fecal matter for many days and can still infect other people should they accidentally come in contact with it.
How long do symptoms last?
When a person becomes infected with the virus, it usually takes between 3 to 6 days before the symptoms of hand foot and mouth disease can be detected. Symptoms usually appear and become noticeable at the end of the incubation period.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of hand foot and mouth disease vary depending on the one infected. Children with hand foot and mouth disease experience fatigue, sore throat, blistering and fever. In some cases, young children may diarrhea. Children with diarrhea due to hand foot and mouth disease are at risk of dehydration. Parents should monitor their children and make sure they receive enough fluids to avoid this.
What to do when there is infection?
Although hand foot and mouth disease is not a life-threatening illness, it is important to keep children from infecting others to avoid spreading the virus. Staying home to recover from the disease is the best way to keep other children safe from infection. Keeping sick children comfortable can help them feel better. Parents should avoid giving children spicy food and carbonated drinks since this is painful for children with mouth sores caused by hand foot and mouth disease.
To bring down the child’s fever, Ibuprofen or paracetamol may be given. This will effectively make the child feel more comfortable and reduce the burning feeling of having a fever. Parents should have the infected child wear light clothes. Having too many layers of clothes can cause an increase in body temperature. The child should be comfortable enough without feeling too cold.
The virus is weakening when the blisters begin to break and dry up. The mouth sores will eventually heal itself in about a week. If in case fever does not break after 3 days or if the infected child refuses to eat food or drink water, it is advisable to seek medical attention immediately. A physician can examine the child to check for any complications caused by hand foot and mouth disease. A prescription for stronger dose of medicine may be given to bring down fever and restore lost electrolytes due to dehydration.
How to prevent others from being infected?
A child with hand foot and mouth disease should be isolated from the rest of members of the household. He or she should remain in a room where rest is encouraged. Family members should wash their hands thoroughly especially before eating or drinking to avoid oral contact with the virus. If there are other children in the house, the child with hand foot and mouth disease should not share toys with them to avoid the risk of infection. When applying ointment or cream to relieve the infected child of blisters, parents should wear protective gloves.
When cleaning the infected child’s room, soiled clothes and beddings should be separated from the rest of the household’s laundry to isolate any form of contamination. It is important to wash them with anti-bacterial soap and letting them dry out in the sun to keep them free from disease-causing bacteria. Hand foot and mouth disease can easily spread once the virus latches on to another human being.
If symptoms of hand foot and mouth disease begin to manifest in other members of the family, preventive measures must be taken to avoid an outbreak in the neighborhood. Leaving the house is not an option since this will only increase the risk of infecting others. If food is running low, friends and relatives can do the food shopping and leave the groceries outside the doorstep. They will be glad to help out and it only takes a few phone calls.
Is there treatment for hand foot and mouth disease?
There is no known treatment for hand foot and mouth disease. The infected can only wait it out until symptoms disappear. Cleaning and disinfecting the entire house should be done once the symptoms of hand foot and mouth disease have completely healed.
Hand foot and mouth disease is something that every parent should be aware of since the illness commonly affects children. One cannot be too careful with the number of diseases that can affect the immune system of children. Knowing the symptoms and effective ways of relief can eliminate the stress of not knowing what to do in case a member of the family is infected with hand foot and mouth disease. Good personal hygiene and grooming habits can reduce the risk of infection.