Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral infection that commonly affects children under five. Read the below article to learn more about it.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a contagious viral infection affecting children under five years of age. Coxsackievirus, which belongs to the enterovirus genus, is the virus that is responsible for most cases of HFMD. It can be spread through direct contact from person to person and is characterized by blisters and sores on the hands, feet, and mouth.
The symptoms usually develop three to seven days after the person gets infected with the virus. Some of the symptoms seen are:
Red and painful lesions on the gums, oral mucosa, and cheeks, which resemble blisters.
Non-itchy, red rash on the palms, soles, and buttocks.
Fussiness in infants and toddlers.
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Fever is usually the first sign of this disease, which is followed by a sore throat, poor appetite, and malaise. The other disease that can cause fever with sores in the throat and back of the mouth in children is herpangina, which is also caused by coxsackievirus.
HFMD is mainly caused by the viruses coxsackievirus A16 and enterovirus 71. But, other strains of coxsackievirus and enterovirus can also cause this disease.
The virus spreads by direct contact with an infected person and oral ingestion of infected food or water. It also spreads if you come in contact with an infected person:
Fluid from blisters.
The infected child is most contagious during the first week of the illness but can still infect others for weeks after the symptoms are gone. Infected adults can pass this infection even without showing any symptoms. This disease is more common in summer and autumn.
Children under five years of age who go to daycare centers and playschools are more susceptible to getting infected with this virus. This is because of frequent diaper changes and the child’s habit of putting their hands in their mouth. As the child grows old, they develop immunity to this disease, as they develop antibodies against this virus after getting infected the first time. Therefore, it is rarely seen in adolescents and adults.
Although there is no significant risk for babies and pregnant women, it is best to stay away from anyone infected with hand, foot, and mouth disease for the following reasons.
High temperature during the first trimester of pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, but it is rare.
If hand, foot, and mouth disease is acquired just a few weeks before giving birth, it can lead to transmission of infection to the baby as well.
Hence, it is better to consult a general physician or a specialist if you are in contact with a person infected with hand, foot, and mouth disease.
The doctor might diagnose this condition by examining the rashes and blisters on the mouth and body and enquiring about other symptoms. Then, if needed, they might take a throat swab or stool sample, which will be tested for the presence of the virus.
It is usually a minor illness, but in rare cases, it can cause complications like:
Dehydration - The most common complication.
Viral Meningitis - Inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Encephalitis - Inflammation of the brain.
Myocarditis - Inflammation of the heart muscle.
Paralysis - Partial or complete loss of muscle function.
Nail Loss - Individuals affected with the virus also experience loss of fingernails and toenails.
As such, there is no specific treatment for HFMD. The signs and symptoms of this disease usually resolve in seven to 10 days.
For pain relief, topical anesthetic gels and anti-itch lotions can be applied to the rashes and blisters.
Paracetamol can be taken to reduce fever.
A mouthwash containing a combination of antacid (acid-reducing agent), a liquid antihistamine (anti-allergic), and a painkiller can be used to reduce pain during swallowing.
No antibiotics are required to treat hand-foot-and-mouth disease, but if the child develops a secondary infection, the doctor might consider giving antibiotics.
Make sure to drink plenty of water. However, it may be difficult due to the mouth sores.
The following are some tips that can help relieve pain:
Eat ice cream and other cool food items.
Take smoothies and yogurt to soothe a sore throat.
Drink cold milk, juice, and water.
Avoid citrus and aerated drinks as they might aggravate the pain caused by mouth blisters.
Avoid spicy, hot, and salty foods.
Consume liquid to semi-liquid foods.
Tell your child to rinse the mouth with warm water after every meal.
There is no vaccine available to prevent this disease, but certain precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk are:
Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
Areas like daycare centers and playschool should be disinfected with soap and water and then with diluted chlorine bleach.
Educate your child about the ill effects of putting the hands and other objects in the mouth.
Prevent going out if you have this disease until all symptoms disappear.
The symptoms like fever and blisters usually clear up within a week. But if the symptoms persist even after a week and if you start experiencing any complications, then please consult a physician online. HFMD rarely causes a medical emergency.
Although hand, foot, and mouth disease have mild symptoms, leading quality time for a few weeks is still challenging until they resolve. In addition, the condition is highly contagious and can quickly spread from person to person. Hence, it is crucial to avoid contact with the infected person and to stay isolated if infected. Furthermore, if the minimal home remedies do not help, consulting a doctor is essential to get suggestions for symptomatic relief and remain virus-free.
Patients who are affected with hand foot and mouth disease have the possibility of being very contagious throughout the incubation period. The incubation period is from three to six days. It is advised that individuals should stay isolated during this period.
If the children are not feeling better, you should keep them away from school it is also necessary for the adults to stay away from their workplace if they are suspected of having hand foot and mouth disease. This will prevent the spreading of infection from one person to another.
- Eat ice cream or drink sherbet.
- Suck on the ice pops and ice chips.
- Drink icy beverages, such as ice water.
- Avoid foods that are rich in citrus content.
- Avoid salty and spicy foods.
- Eat very soft foods that do not require too much chewing.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease become very painful because of the blisters occurring in the mouth, hands, fingers, toes, and feet. If the lesion occurs in the tongue, then it might be difficult for the patient to have healthy food. In case of severe pain, ask your doctor to suggest medications for you.
Hand foot and mouth disease spread due to poor hygiene. It can be transmitted through saliva from the infected patient to a healthy person. Handwashing techniques should be followed in order to prevent such diseases.
There are possibilities of getting hand, foot, and mouth disease again and again if proper sanitation is not followed. Kids who are under the age of five years are affected more. So, there are chances for the disease to reoccur if the kids are too playful with others in a social gathering.
The lesions are usually found on the dorsal surface of the hands and feet. It does not cause any scar in most cases. The wound peels off by itself, leaving no scar. With the recent advancement of medicine present also it can be easily treated.
In some children, there might be diarrhea and vomiting. You should take proper care of your kids when they are suffering from hand foot and mouth disease. Homemade food when they are suffering from this condition. They should be allowed to have more rest and sleep.
Adding Epsom salt to bathing water can help to improve the rashes on the skin by removing the toxins. Regularly gargle your mouth with warm saltwater. Coconut oil has got many medicinal properties then antiviral agent so that it can be applied directly to your skin.
Hand foot and mouth disease does not get transmitted through the air. But it can affect a healthy person why direct contact with them. Not share objects with an infected person. The patient should use separate glasses for drinking water and plates for eating food. The clothes used by them should be cleaned well.
Last reviewed at:
08 Sep 2022 - 5 min read
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