Published on May 28, 2019 and last reviewed on Oct 15, 2019 - 3 min read
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral infection, which commonly affects children under 5 years of age. Coxsackievirus, which belongs to the Enterovirus genus, is the virus that is responsible for most cases of HFMD.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral infection, which commonly affects children under 5 years of age. Coxsackievirus, which belongs to the Enterovirus genus, is the virus that is responsible for most cases of HFMD. It is highly contagious and can be spread through direct contact from person-to-person. This disease is characterized by blisters and sores on the hands, feet, and mouth.
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The symptoms usually develop 3 to 7 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.
Fever is usually the first sign of this disease, which is followed by 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’s:
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 5 years of age, and who go to daycare centers and playschool are more susceptible to get infected with this virus. This is because of frequent diaper changes and the child’s habit of putting their hands in the 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. It is rarely seen in adolescents and adults.
The doctor might diagnose this condition by examining the rashes and blisters on the mouth and body, and by enquiring about other symptoms. If needed, he or she 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 - most common complication.
Viral meningitis - inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Encephalitis - inflammation of the brain.
As such, there is no specific treatment for HFMD. The signs and symptoms of this disease usually resolve in 7 to 10 days.
For pain relief, topical anesthetic gels can be applied on the sores and blisters, and Paracetamol can be taken to reduce fever.
No antibiotics are required to treat hand-foot-and-mouth disease, but if the child develops secondary infection, then the doctor might consider giving antibiotics.
The following are some tips that can help relieve pain:
Eat ice cream and other cool food items.
Drink cold milk, juice, and water.
Avoid citrus and aerated drinks as it 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:
Areas like daycare center 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.
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