Hand, foot and mouth disease

Recent months have seen several outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease. Here is more on this viral infection:

What is this infection?:

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, or HFMD, is caused by a virus. Anyone can get the disease, but children under age 10 are most likely to catch it.

What Causes It?:

Viruses that usually cause hand-foot-and-mouth are named Coxsackievirus A16 and Enterovirus 71. In fact, you might hear your child’s doctor refer to it as the coxsackie virus.

How my child gets the infection?:

Your child can catch hand-foot-and-mouth disease through contact with someone who has it, or from something that has been in contact with the virus, like a toy, tabletop, or doorknob. It tends to spread easily in the summer and fall.

What are the Symptoms?:

  • Early symptoms may include fever and a sore throat. Painful blisters similar to cold sores can show up on the inside of your child’s mouth or on his tongue.
  • Your child might get a rash on the palms of his hands or the soles of his feet a day or two after the first symptoms appear.
  • This rash may turn into blisters. Flat spots or sores may pop up on the knees, elbows, or buttocks. He could have all of these symptoms, or only one or two.
  • Mouth sores can make it hurt to swallow, so be sure your child gets enough water and calories.
  • And while it’s not pleasant, it also isn’t serious

How Is It Treated ?:

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease should go away on its own after 7 to 10 days. There is no treatment for the illness and no vaccine. You can ease your child’s symptoms with:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Cold treats like yogurt, or smoothies to soothe a sore throat.
  • Anti-itch lotion, like calamine, can help against rashes.

Stop the Spread ?:

Your child is most contagious in the first 7 days. But the virus can stay in her body for days or weeks after symptoms go away and it could spread through her spit or poop. The best way to prevent that is to wash hands thoroughly. That applies to you, too, after you change a diaper or wipe a runny nose.

Your child should be fever- and symptom-free before she goes back to school or daycare. Check with your doctor if you aren’t sure whether she’s still contagious.

Author: Dr. Sahar Nassar

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