Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Children: What to Do and How to Avoid Them

As parents, we would always make sure to protect our children to the best of our abilities. We would make sure that they are given the best so that they would grow up with a good life. Even if they may make mistakes and fail, we make sure to lift them up and support their endeavors.

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Unfortunately, there are certain things that we are unable to control. These uncontrollable situations are usually when our children get sick, in particular, when they get affected by hand, foot and mouth disease.


What is HFMD?

HFMD or better known as hand, foot and mouth disease is a kind of infection that is highly contagious. The disease is known to be caused by a common strain of coxsackievirus known as Enterovirus genus. Generally, the virus is passed on to a person through direct contact with a person with hands that are unwashed or places that are contaminated with feces. Similarly, the virus can also be carried when in physical contact with an infected person’s body fluids like saliva, stool, and secretions.

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When affected by hand, foot and mouth disease, glaring sores or blisters would appear on the mouth as well as rashes all over the hands and feet. Although the infection can affect anyone regardless of age, it is a common occurrence in children below the age of five.


What are the symptoms of HFMD?

The first clear symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease start with a fever and sore throat. The sores or blisters would follow later one or two days after the onset of fever and sore throat. Other symptoms of this disease include:

–    Loss of appetite

–    Headaches

–    Mood swings and feeling irritated

–    Painful blisters that also appear around the mouth

–    Red rashes that appear on the buttocks, soles of the feet or palms

–    Tired and lethargic

Usually, the symptoms start to develop around three days to a week after being infected and are known as the incubation period.


What are the causes of HFMD and who are at risk?

As mentioned, the disease is caused by the coxsackievirus strain known as enterovirus. When the virus infects a person, it can easily be transmitted through direct contact with body fluids including stool, saliva, and secretions from sneezing or coughing.

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It is reported that children below five years old are more prone to this disease because of the kind of bacterial exposure they have in public places like daycare and parks. Since toddlers tend to put their hands on vulnerable parts of their body like face and mouth after touching dirty things, they are more at risk with getting infected.

Children who are over age ten would usually have better immune systems, so it is easier for their bodies to ward off the viruses. However, the disease can still affect children at this age and adults particularly if their immune system is weak.


What complications can develop from hand, foot and mouth disease?

Although HFMD is not a major illness, certain complications can take place if left untreated. Dehydration is one of the common complications that occur when a person is infected with hand, foot and mouth disease. It is because the disease makes it difficult for a person to swallow or drink due to the painful blisters.

In rare cases, other complications when affected by the illness include:

–    Encephalitis

This happens when the brain becomes inflamed due to the severity of the virus and is considered life-threatening.

–    Viral meningitis

This happens when a rare inflammation occurs in the membranes and fluids surrounding our spinal cord and brain.


How can HFMD be treated and prevented?

When a person is infected with hand, foot and mouth disease, it is usually diagnosed by carrying out a physical evaluation. The body especially the hands, mouth, and foot are checked for rashes and blisters. Often, a stool sample or throat swab can also be extracted to confirm the disease.

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Unfortunately, a cure or vaccine has not been discovered yet for hand, foot and mouth disease. In many cases, the infection will disappear in a week to ten days. There are certain medications that your doctor may recommend to help relieve symptoms until the disease goes away. These include:


–    Topical or over-the-counter creams or ointments that can help soothe the rashes or blisters on the skin

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–    Pain relievers like ibuprofen to help reduce a headache

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–    Lozenges or syrup medications to lessen discomforts from a sore throat

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There are also home treatments you can try that can also reduce symptoms and provide relief from the discomfort. These home treatments include:


–    Avoiding salty or spicy foods

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–    Drinking cold beverages

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–    Staying hydrated with water



–    Avoiding sugary drinks like juices and soda

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–    Eating ice-cream or fruit sherbets

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–    Sucking on popsicles or ice

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–    Gargling with warm water to relieve blisters and sores around the mouth

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Similarly, there are also preventive measures to follow for your child to lower the risk of getting infected. These measures include:


  1. Make sure that your children clean and wash their hands properly and thoroughly

Check that your child washes his or her hands after playing. Encourage hand washing with antibacterial soap and that it is done thoroughly especially in the nails and between fingers. If there isn’t any soap and water, make sure to be prepared with sanitary hand wipes and alcohol or hand sanitizers.

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  1. Make sure your home is properly disinfected

Children usually bring home various germs and bacteria. Check that common items or places in the house are properly washed and dried, like toys, sheets, and furniture.

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  1. Make sure to teach your children proper hygiene especially in school

Children tend to follow examples of parents so make sure proper hygiene is taught at home all the time. It is suggested that explaining to them the dangers of putting their hands in their mouths after touching dirty objects.

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  1. Keep infected people isolated

The disease is highly contagious, so an individual affected by it should keep away to avoid passing the infection to others. If your child is infected, keep them from going to school until the infection has gone away and the blisters have healed.

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