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How to Handle Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease


Whilst the Kids on Track office was closed in the last few days, my niece was recovering from an extremely common but often misunderstood childhood illness, hand, foot and mouth disease. Whilst not as well knows as other diseases such as chicken pox that are accompanied by spots, hand, foot and mouth is often more common during certain seasons ( spring, summer and autumn) and in childcare settings. Although most cases of this illness are seen in children under 10, people of any age can catch it. It is not more harmful in adults or to anyone who is pregnant.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is caused by a virus and is not in any way dangerous but rather is classed as a mild childhood illness. The symptom that distinguishes this virus from others is the rash that occurs. This rash can often be found in and around the mouth, on the hands, on the soles of feet or may be noticed anywhere that is covered by a nappy. For many children, this is the only symptom but others may complain of sore throats; sore muscles, nausea or a stomach ache. Parents may notice their child to be more irritable than usual and have a decreased appetite. Whether these other physical symptoms are present or not, most children exhibit a fever at some point during the virus.

As the infection is a viral one, antibiotics will not help but paracetamol for fever and comfort may alleviate the symptoms. Ensuring your child is able to drink especially if there are blisters in their mouth is extremely important. Allow the blisters to dry up and clear on their own; popping them will spread the infection and can be painful to your child,

The virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease is known as enterovirus and can stay in the body for up to 10 weeks. However, most cases of hand, foot and mouth disease last for 7-10 days following an incubation period of 3-6 days. Enterovirus is very contagious and spreads quickly between children. It is transmitted through body fluids such as mucus, runny noses, urine, or the fluid inside the blisters of the rash. Your child's poo is also highly contagious and can remain so for several weeks after the infection has cleared up.

The rash itself can vary in appearance from child to child. The area around the bottom is usually the most red with other spots being clear in colour with liquid inside. Only once the blisters have dried up, the risk of infecting others has passed and your child is safe to return to crèche or school.

Whilst hand, foot and mouth disease can't be prevented, good hand hygiene together with limiting the sharing of food, drink and towels can help to minimise the spread.

Hope you and your families had an enjoyable long weekend!!