Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease

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Hand. foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a contagious illness quite common in toddlers it is caused by the interovirus, which lives in the digestive system. This disease is characterised by fever and a typical rash most frequently seen on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and inside the mouth, hence its name. Children aged one to four are most at risk and there are many outbreaks in autumn and summer. However, HFMD should not be confused with foot (hoof) and mouth disease that affects cattle, sheep and swine.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of HFMD are mild fever and malaise followed within one or two days by a characteristic rash. Small red spots that quickly develop into small blisters appear on the palms of the hands, soles pf the feet and on the roof of the mouth. The gums, tongue, and inner cheeks are most commonly also affected. The mouth sores are commonly associated with a sore throat and a loss of appetite. These symptoms typically last three to five days, but the ulcers may last longer.

The diagnosis

Usually the diagnosis of HFMD is made through a physical observation by your family doctor. Laboratory confirmation is rarely necessary unless there are severe complications. 

It is also worth going to the doctor if you're not sure that HFMD is what you're dealing with; the doctor can confirm it by taking a look. If your child's fever rises higher than 39°C, go to the doctor. Dehydration is a concern because your child's mouth sores may make it difficult for her to drink anything. If your child shows any signs of dehydration- such as lethargy or a dry, patched mouth- call her doctor immediately.

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There's nothing much to be done by your paediatrician; the virus must run its course. The paed may prescribe some medication to ease the pain from the blisters and sore throat, and make your child comfortable. It will take five to seven days for this virus to run its course; keep your child as comfortable as possible during this time. 

Home treatment

If your child has HFMD you can't do much except watch her temperature and make sure she's taking in enough fluids and food. If it is a bad case of HFMD, she will be in a lot of pain. Be very patient with her, and give plenty of soothing attention in addition to making sure she drinks plenty of liquids.

Your little one must drink plenty of fluids to keep her from becoming dehydrated. Your paediatrician will prescribe some medication to help with the pain and perhaps some oinment or cream for the blisters. During this time your child will be irritable and will require a lot of your attention. The sores in her mouth are painful so she may refuse to drink or eat anything because of the discomfort.

Keep the affected areas clean and dry; you can clean the white curds from the ulcers by wrapping your index finger with a handkerchief and wiping the inside of the mouth. Once the blisters on the hands and feet burst, was the area with clean water and keep the area dry and uncovered. Do not feed your toddler spicy or acidic foods at this time as this will make the ulocers very painful. You can offer her ice-cream or juice lollies to help soothe and numb the pain while keeping her hydrated at the same time- it may just be a little treat to get her mind off things.

How is HFMD spread?

HFMD is spread person to person by direct contact and is higly contagious, whcih is why it spread through pre-schools so quickly. An infected child is most contagious during the first week of her illness. HFMD cannot be contracyed from pets or animals. The viruses that cause HFMD may remain in the person's respiratory or intestinal tract for several weeks to months after all symptoms have resolved. If it is possible, therefore, to transmit the infection even though the formerly ill individual has completely recovered. Some individuals (usually adults) may exhibit no symptoms during their infection but may unwittingly transmit the illness to those who are not immune (usually infants and children). 

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