Hand Foot Mouth Disease is a widespread contagious health problem that occurs in children under the age of 10 years. It is caused mainly due to close contact with an infected person/ child. Viruses from the Enterovirus genus are the reason for this disease. Coxsackievirus is the primary virus that causes hand foot and mouth disease in children.
Though the symptoms are mild, they can continue for a week or even more. It is a highly communicable disease. Touching the unwashed hands of an infected person or touching the surface with leftover feces can easily cause the condition in the child.
If the disease gets spread in your locality or city, it’s best to prevent your child from playing with other children for the time being. Avoid any direct contact with other children.
Symptoms associated with hand foot and mouth disease in children
The symptoms appear in an infected child after 3-5 days of getting the virus. This is called the incubation period. Once the child is infected, they might experience the following –
1. Fever and Flu – The child experiences a fever lasting for 3-7 days.
2. Mouth Sores – Mouth sores are pretty common in this disease. The child feels pain in the throat area. They might also get blisters, and sores usually start as small red spots, often on the tongue and insides of the mouth. Swallowing food and drinks becomes difficult due to pain. Cold drinks often give relief to the child.
3. Skin Rashes – The palms of the hands and soles of the feet get skin rashes during this disease. It can also show up on the buttocks, legs, and arms. The rashes are not itchy but just flat moles of red color that might also contain fluids. Blisters might also occur in these areas. When the rashes and blisters are healing, it’s advised to avoid touching them.
4. Reduced Appetite – It’s common to feel less hungry, or your child might lose appetite.
6. Malaise (feeling unwell)
When to seek medical treatment
The hand-foot-mouth disease is quite mild and generally goes away after a week, but medical treatment is still necessary if the symptoms are severe. Consult a doctor if the child is suffering from a fever for more than 4 days, is unable to drink water at all, is unresponsive to you, carries the symptoms for more than 10 days, or has a poor immune system. Also, a child of fewer than 6 months should be immediately treated by the doctor.
The medical treatment generally includes pain relief medicines and no antibiotics.
Some rare symptoms
Very rarely might people experience the symptoms like extreme dehydration, finger tail, and toenail loss, Viral (aseptic) meningitis in which the neck and pain occur, and they become stiff, Encephalitis (swelling of the brain) or paralysis (can’t move parts of the body). These symptoms are extremely rare, though.
Causes of hand, foot, and mouth disease
This disease is caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus family. The specific viruses that cause this disease are Coxsackievirus A16, Coxsackievirus A6, and Enterovirus 71 (EV-A71). Coxsackievirus A16 is the most typical virus that causes hand, foot, and mouth disease, and the symptoms associated are mild in this virus. The other viruses cause more severe symptoms.
The spread of this disease is related to the following reasons –
- Coming in direct contact with an infected person’s nose and throat secretions, such as saliva, drool, or nasal mucus.
- Touching the fluids of an infected person’s blisters or scabs
- Sharing a hug, kiss, or eating together with an infected person.
- Touching the feces of an infected person is like changing diapers.
- Coming in contact with an infected surface with the virus, like a doorknob, table, or other places.
It’s okay to let your child go to school and play outside if the symptoms are very mild. But staying home is best if the child has a fever, cold, cough, and very low energy.
Diagnoses and treatment
The medical examiner will run a physical test to examine the hand-foot-mouth disease. They check the mouth, hands, and foot for blisters and rashes. A stool sample or throat swab may be taken by the doctor to test the symptoms.
The treatment of hand, foot, and mouth disease in children is quite simple. The doctor may give ointments and cream to soothe the blister pain. For sore throat, liquid syrups are provided, while pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, is given to relieve headaches.
You should avoid giving children aspirin as it may cause Reye’s syndrome when infected.
It’s possible to prevent getting hand, foot, and mouth disease in children. Proper hygiene maintenance is the best prevention. Teach your child always to wash their hands if in contact with other children in school, daycare, or playgrounds. Washing hands before and after eating meals and after using restrooms, especially public toilets, is very important. Do wash hands if you’ve changed diapers or have cared for someone who is sick.
Tell them to avoid putting their hands and feet in their mouths or other objects. Also, promote no touching of eyes, nose, and mouth regularly.
Hand foot mouth disease is not severe, and children tend to grow immunity to fight the virus the second time they have suffered from it. But it’s best to be well aware of the disease and seek medical help when the symptoms seem severe.