FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE IN CHILDREN
What is foot and mouth disease in children?
Children beware. Hand-foot-mouth disease is a common viral disease that usually targets children younger than five years old, including infants. A seasonal disease, it occurs mainly in kindergarten and preschool areas. It may also affect adults, especially those suffering from immune deficiencies, but the severity is milder compared to children.
Often mixed up with foot and mouth disease (aka hoof and mouth disease), which affects animals like swine, cattle and sheep, hand-foot-mouth disease cannot be transmitted to pets and children cannot get infected with the animal disease. There are two known types of intestinal viruses from the Picornaviridae family that cause hand-foot-mouth disease: Coxsackie A16 virus and the Enterovirus 71 or EV-71 an the latter is more potent.
Hand-foot-mouth disease causing virus is so common that children can easily get infected. This is due to the fact that children are very active and don’t concern themselves with cleanliness. During the hand to mouth phase of growth, toddlers are known to eat dirt or put their hands or fist inside their mouths a lot. Unsupervised children will eventually contract hand-foot-mouth disease causing virus in public places and other places where it is not too sanitary.
Hand-foot-mouth disease is fairly contagious. In recent times, containment has been successful as healthcare professionals have already perfected the isolation processes and care. The latest hand-foot-mouth disease outbreak reported no fatalities.
Hand-foot-mouth disease is transmitted by direct contact. The spread of the hand-foot-mouth disease causing virus is transmitted from person to person through body secretions like saliva, nasal mucus, sputum, feces or stool of an infected person, fluids from blisters and coming in contact with any surface where remnants of an infected person’s body secretions are left behind.
Children infected with hand-foot-mouth disease are highly contagious during the first week of illness or the incubation period, which is usually from three to seven days. The hand-foot-mouth disease causing virus is very potent during this period. The virus can still be very much active even after all signs and symptoms of hand-foot-mouth disease are not visible anymore after weeks of feeling better. Sometimes, those who are infected wouldn’t show any visible signs. In this case, further tests will be needed to determine the severity of the hand-foot-mouth disease the child is in.
The signs and symptoms of hand-foot-mouth disease usually starts with a case of fever, fatigue, weakness (malaise), sore throat, poor or loss of appetite, headache, vomiting, vertigo or dizziness, irritability (especially in infants and toddlers), diarrhea, blister-like sores in the mouth area (herpangina), hand (palm) and foot (soles), body rash and painful oral lesions. Hand-foot-mouth disease is also characterized by sores and blisters that may also be present in the knees, elbows, nose and nostrils, on the genital area and on the buttocks.
Because it is hard to swallow due to the mouth sores, children have difficulty drinking and would often result to dehydration. The different hand-foot-mouth disease signs and symptoms may not all occur on the infected child. There might only be mouth and foot sores. However it might be, proper healthcare should be administered just the same.
If remained untreated, hand-foot-mouth disease can cause some serious complications in children even if the probability of this from happening is rare, especially nowadays. Among the most common complications is viral meningitis, which is a mild complication but may still need to have the patient hospitalized for a few days. Loss of toenails and fingernails had been reported to occur among children infected with hand-foot-mouth disease, but they grow back after. Encephalitis, a condition that induces the brain to swell and causes polio-like paralysis can be fatal.
There is no known vaccine for hand-foot-mouth disease. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC have several tips to help avoid getting infected by harmful viruses such as hand-foot-mouth disease causing viruses (Coxsackie A16 and Enterovirus 71). Frequent hand washing with soap and water, especially when changing diapers and using the toilet, is vital. Disinfecting surfaces and children’s toys with a solution of chlorine bleach is also helpful. Proper hygiene and potty disposal is also a must.
CDC advises people to refrain from getting into direct contact with a hand-foot-mouth disease infected person through hugging, kissing, sharing utensils and cups, holding hands, and touching the feet and mouth.
Although there is no specific treatment for hand-foot-mouth disease, there are medications available to relieve fever and pain. Using mild mouthwashes can also come in handy to kill the virus. Taking lots of liquids is important to get rehydrated. To be sure, consulting a physician or contacting a healthcare professional about hand-foot-mouth disease is still recommended.