What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

November 12, 2012

What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease mainly affects children under the age of 10 and is a mild illness, which is usually finished within a week. Typical symptoms include a fever, rash, sore throat and often small ulcer like spots inside the mouth. In around 75% of cases after spots appear in the mouth they start to appear on the hands and feet. These spots are very small lumps similar to chickenpox, which can also appear on the legs, buttocks and genitals. These spots can be tender but unlike chickenpox are not normally itchy.

The symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease rarely become serious and usually clear up within a week. The sore throat could lead to a few sleepless and miserable nights for young children and the mouth ulcers can be painful but there are treatments, which can be prescribed by the doctor. In very rare cases, complications can occur effecting the heart, lung or brain.

Although there are no direct treatments to cure the virus of hand, foot and mouth disease, there are treatments available to ease the symptoms. The main cause of discomfort for a child will be a fever, so take action to attempt to reduce their temperature. Paracetamol or ibuprofen will both lower a temperature and can be bought in liquid form to administer to children. There are various brands so follow the instructions that are provided. Remember that this medicine will not cure the illness but merely help to make the child more comfortable. If they are able to sleep or are not feeling any distress caused by their illness there is not need to give them anything.

If the room is at an average temperature remove the clothes from the child. It is not recommended to wrap up a feverish child or to cold sponge them. Not only does this make them more uncomfortable but can also make the fever worse. Cold water will constrict the blood vessels, trapping heat deep inside their body. It is a good idea to keep the air circulating in the room by using a fan or having an open window, however be careful not to fan the child too closely with cold air. If a sore throat gets so bad that the child refuses to drink, inform the doctor otherwise dehydration could occur.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is infectious and can take 3-5 days for symptoms to occur after being infected. Coughing and sneezing is the most common form of transmitting the virus and it goes into the air and then comes into contact with the next person. That is why it is common for outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease to occur in nurseries and school. The disease is infectious until the mouth ulcers and spots have cleared up so any one with the virus should stay isolated, particularly from other children until this stage. However, the virus can still be present and passed out via faeces for another 2 or more weeks. Practising good hygiene will reduce the chance of the virus being passed on.

Parents or nannies should take care when handling nappies and used tissues and wash their hands every time. With older children make sire they thoroughly wash their time after each time they go to the toilet. Try to avoid piercing blisters, as the liquid is infectious and don’t share utensils, cups or towels. Try to keep his or her mouth and nose covered and use disposable tissues to wipe the child’s nose.

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