Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a viral infection caused by the Coxsackie virus. It is a mild infection that most commonly affects children under the age of 10, especially those who are in day care centres, preschool or other areas where children are in close contact with one another. Your child may contract the virus by coming into contact with someone who is infected with the virus, through coughing or sneezing, or touching a surface contaminated with feces. The virus is very contagious and is spread easily from person to person.
Like most viral infections, hand-foot-and-mouth lasts about 5 days. Fever is often the first sign of infection, followed by the sore throat, poor appetite, and tiredness, which then progresses to mouth sores and a rash.
Some of the signs and symptoms to look for if you suspect your child has hand-foot-and-mouth disease include:
• Sore throat
• Small painful sores, like blisters, on the tongue, gums, inside the cheeks or in the throat – they quickly develop into ulcers
• Rash on the hands and the feet, which is not itchy
• Poor appetite (usually a result of the painful sores in the mouth)
• Feeling unwell, and more tired
• Irritability in infants or toddlers
• Drooling (because it may be painful to swallow)
There is no direct treatment for the virus that causes hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Like most viral illnesses, it will last a short period of time and resolve on its own. The best treatment is to help relieve the symptoms associated with the infection. Here are some things you can do to help your child:
• Ensure they are getting plenty of fluids – dehydration is the most common complication associated with hand-foot-and-mouth disease
• Over the counter pain and fever medications may help, like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
• Using mouthwash and keeping good oral hygiene
• Using an oral numbing spray
• Ensure they are getting lots of rest
• Cold foods, like ice cream and popsicles can help by slightly numbing the area
• Keep the blisters on the hands and feet clean and uncovered
• Treat any open blisters with antibiotic ointment
The best and most effective way to reduce the spread of hand-foot-and-mouth is thorough hand washing, especially after using the toilet, changing a diaper or handling soiled fabrics or tissues. Be sure to take extra care in keeping surfaces and toys clean and disinfected. Covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing and do not share eating utensils, cups, towels, etc. Avoiding close contact with others when you can, especially those infected with hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Keep blisters clean and dry and covered after they pop.
Even though there is no specific treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease, it’s best to see your doctor to confirm the diagnosis. They can offer support on home treatment and reassurance for you and your child. Also, if you feel your child is not getting any better, if the mouth ulcers last more than 10 days, if your child is refusing to eat or drink, is inconsolable, or is more irritable than normal, it’s time to see your doctor or nurse practitioner.
– Dr. Christina Cesareo and Dr. G Paul Dempsey
[Featured image: MidgleyDJ]