Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease – Why It Is Common In Toddlers And School Going Kids?
Three year old Manish was feeling feverish one night and his mother thought it might be a viral attack. But when she saw rashes on the skin and ulcers on the tongue, she immediately rushed him to a pediatrician. On observing the condition, the doctor diagnosed him of Hand-Foot-And-Mouth disease.
We all are familiar to some degree about viral infections that affects many of us from time to time. But many of them are troublesome to children. Let’s discuss this condition and how it can be resolved.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
The disorder is referred to a contagious infection characterized by sores in mouth and rashes on the skin. The condition is most common in children under 5 years of age. It spread through person-to-person contact or coming in contact with infected person’s saliva or respiratory secretions.
Prevalence - How severe is the disease?
The viral infection though mild in nature but can be an irritating one. It is typically characterized by painful blisters with fever and throat infection. The condition is common in infants and children between 1-5 years of age. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is very common in monsoon season, especially when schools reopen.
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Signs of hand, foot and mouth disease
The symptoms start to begin within 3-7 days of coming in contact with the disease. A fever and sore throat are typically the first signs of this disease. However, blisters are formed 1-2 days after the fever. The condition can cause some or all of the below mentioned signs and symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Painful red spots or blisters in the mouth including tongue, gums, and cheeks
- Irritability in infants and toddlers
- Red rashes on hands and feet without itching
- Loss of appetite
Risks and Causes – How children catch hand, foot and mouth disease?
The disorder is caused by a strain of coxsackievirus, known as coxsackievirus A16. This virus belongs to a group of nonpolio viruses called as enteroviruses. While oral ingestion is the most common entryway of this virus, the medium of transmission is also easy from person-to-person.
Medium of spread
Hand, foot and mouth disease is the most common in child care centers due to frequent diapers changes. It also spread as little kids often put their hands in their mouths. Even after the disease subsides, the virus remains active in the body for several days. So, the affected person can pass on the infection to others even weeks after symptoms are gone.
Some common mode of transmission includes:
- Respiratory droplets
- Fluid from blisters
- Unwashed hands or infected surfaces
Children typically build up immunity against the disease with the age. The antibodies develop in their bodies after exposure to the virus. However, adult with a weak immune system can also get the disease.
Are there any complications of hand, foot and mouth disease?
The most classic complication of this condition is dehydration. The disease can cause ulcers in the mouth making it quite difficult to swallow food. If the dehydration becomes severe, the person may need fluid intravenously.
Though hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a mild infection that lasts a few days, a serious form of coxsackievirus can affect the brain and cause:
- Viral meningitis, a rare infection that inflames the brain membranes and the fluid around the brain and spinal cord
- Encephalitis also causes inflammation of the brain besides vision and hearing problems
However, both of these condition mentioned above rarely occurs as a result of coxsackievirus infection.
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Diagnosis of hands, foot and mouth disease
The doctor or pediatrician can diagnose the infection by merely spotting the blisters or physically examining the patient. The doctor will go through the symptoms and may also take a sample of the throat to check for the presence of the virus.
The doctor will be able to differentiate this disease from other infections depending on the age, pattern and appearance of rashes and ulcers.
What treatments are available for hand, foot and mouth disease?
There is no particular treatment of this condition. In majority of the cases, the infection will go away without any treatment in about 7-10 days. However, the doctor can recommend certain medicines to ease symptoms and make your child feel child good. These medications and home-based remedies include:
- Oral anesthetic to give relief from painful mouth ulcers
- Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Prescribed or over-the-counter topical ointments for soothing the rashes and blisters
- Syrups or lozenges for painful ulcers in the throats
There are some home treatments that can provide your child relief from the blisters and sores. These include:
- Eating ice or drinking sherbet
- Swishing warm salt water around the mouth multiple times a day
- Sucking on ice or popsicles
- Drinking cold beverages such as ice water or milk
- Avoiding citrus fruits and juices as well as soda
- Avoiding salty or spicy foods
- Eat soft foods that don’t require much effort in chewing
Practicing good hygiene is the best way to fight this disease. The kids must be trained on this and must be taught not to put their hands in the mouth. It is also important to cleanse common household areas regularly. All these things can greatly help in eradicating the risk of getting the disease.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is basically a mild disorder and can go away on its own after a few days of fever and other mild symptoms. However, you must contact your pediatrician if the irritability of your child doesn’t subside in a week or symptoms worsen.
1. About Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) (2017, December 22). CDC read more
2. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (2017, March). KidsHealth read more
3. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (2017, July 26). Mayo Clinic read more