Hand, foot and mouth disease is one of the commonest viral infections that affect children.
Hand, foot and mouth disease or HFMD is a viral infection, which is commonly caused by the coxsackievirus. The infection is characterized by fever along with painful blisters or sores in the mouth and throat, on hands, feet and diaper area. It is highly contagious and has no specific treatment.
What causes hand, foot and mouth disease?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is caused by a number of viruses. The commonest of all is the coxsackievirus.
What are the symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease?
The disease commonly affects children below the age of 5 years. It is very rarely seen in adults. Hand, foot and mouth disease symptoms in infants and younger children include the following:
- Painful sores in the mouth, especially at the back of mouth, side of tongue or inside the cheeks
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Blisters over palms and soles
- Blisters can also appear on buttocks and lower calf region
- Dehydration (rarely seen, but it is due to sore throat, as the child is unable to swallow)
Hand, foot and mouth disease symptoms in adults are very mild or transient
- Sense of being unwell
- Sore throat and blisters on palms and soles
Is hand, foot and mouth disease a contagious one?
Yes, it is. It spreads from person to person by direct contact. The virus is found in the throat and nasal region of the infected individuals. It is also present in the blister fluid of the affected persons. The virus is capable of surviving on object surfaces and can transmit the infection while changing the diapers too. The most contagious phase of illness is during the first week.
What is the treatment of hand, foot and mouth disease?
The treatment of hand, foot and mouth disease is purely symptomatic. The focus of treatment is to relieve fever and sore throat. Vaccines are not available, so the best possible treatment lies in preventing the disease.
What can be the outcome of hand, foot and mouth disease?
Children suffering from hand, foot and mouth disease start feeling better in 5-7 days after the onset of symptoms. If symptoms persist for more than 10 days, you must call your doctor as this may cause complications.
What can happen if hand, foot and mouth disease gets complicated?
Majority of the times, the disease resolves in just a week’s time. Very rarely do complications develop. One of the commonest complications that your child can develop is dehydration, which is due to soreness of the throat and mouth. Make sure your child takes sips of water, juices, lemonade, etc at regular intervals. If dehydration is severe, it may require IV (intravenous) fluid injection.
Severe complications due to coxsackie virus are rare, but can involve the central nervous system and cause viral meningitis (inflammation of the layer covering the brain and spinal cord) or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain itself; this can be life-threatening).
How to prevent hand, foot and mouth disease?
Hand, foot and mouth disease prevention includes maintaining general hygiene
- Wash your hands well with soap and water before touching your baby.
- Disinfect common areas and toys by washing them or by cleaning them with a dilute chlorine bleaching agent.
- Teach your child about healthy practices like washing hands after using the toilet, after coming home from play or school, and not putting fingers in the mouth.
- Isolate the affected individual and follow a healthy hygiene routine to avoid the spread of infection to others
Disclaimer: The information in the article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor.
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