Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

 

MEDICAL ALERT

 

Hand - Foot and Mouth Disease

 

 

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HFMD is a viral infection with a typical rash and mouth lesions. It is caused by an Enterovirus infection. The most susceptible are infants and toddlers. Adults usually are only carriers.

In the past several years there have been ongoing epidemics of HFMD all over South East Asia.  

After an incubation period of about 4-6 days the child may develop fever, complain of sore mouth and refuse to eat or drink. The lesions in the mouth start as small vesicles (blisters) that turn into yellowish ulcers. They involve mainly the palate but can appear anywhere in the mouth. Soon after, several red spots may appear on the hands, feet and sometimes the buttocks. They may gradually change into grey – yellow small blisters. The disease last for a few days up to a week. The child develops neutralizing antibodies and re-infection is uncommon.

Herpangina – is a similar infection which involves only the mouth.


 

The main care for a sick child with HFMD is to make sure he drinks enough fluids during the day to ensure he remains hydrated and analgesia to manage the pain and fever. Mouth washes with salty water can alleviate the pain. Soft and cold food are preferred (even ice cream.) The most commonly used medications are Paracetamol (e.g Panadol, Tylenol, Efferalgan) and Ibuprofen (e.g. Advil, Nurofen). Both are very effective and very safe. While using Ibuprofen, it is important to make sure the child drinks properly.

The Enterovirus spreads through saliva and faeces. Therefore, in order to minimize the spreading of the virus, good hygiene should be maintained and children should avoid sharing the same utensils or mouth to mouth contact. It is essential to wash hands thoroughly with water and soap after using the bathroom, especially in kindergartens and daycare centers.

The disease usually is mild with no long term complications. Neurological (e.g. Encephalitis – infection of the brain) and cardiac complications are extremely rare, but may lead to severe disability or death. These complications usually appear after 3 – 5 days of illness, especially in children younger than 2.

If your child develops the following symptoms:
Lethargy, severe headaches, recurrent vomiting, significant reduction in urine output, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or unusual muscle movements (jerks, twitching) you should seek medical help immediately.

Good health to us all!

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