Hand foot and mouth disease can affect any age group but is most common in children under ten years of age. They are most likely to catch it in the Summer or Autumn. It should not be confused with foot and mouth disease which is a viral infection which affects animals such as cattle, sheep and pigs.
Hand foot and mouth disease is a viral infection most commonly caused by the following viruses:
- coxsackie virus A16, A6, or A10
- Enterovirus 71
Your child may suffer with some but not all of the following symptoms. The most distinctive symptoms are those which give the infection its name, blisters on the hands, feet and in the mouth. Other symptoms include:
- A high temperature (38-39 degrees celcius)
- A cough.
- A sore throat
- Loss of appetite or interest in food.
- Pain in tummy and even occasional vomiting.
- Mouth Ulcers – after a couple of days of having the other symptoms mouth ulcers can appear on the tongue, gums, and inner cheek of your child. They can be small to start and then increase to larger yellow/grey ulcers which have a red outer ring. There is commonly 5-10 ulcers in the mouth area. The ulcers typically last 5-7 days.
- The mouth ulcers can be sore and can cause your child to stop or reduce feeding and eating.
- Your child may find it sore to swallow and so may dribble more than normal .
- Skin Rash – The rash associated with hand foot and mouth disease appears like small red spots which can have a dark centre and can turn into small blisters. They usually appear on the fingers, palms of hands, soles of feet and can also affect the nappy area. The rash usually lasts up to ten days.
Hand foot and mouth disease can be spread in several ways so is quite contagious. Infected droplets can be carried by coughs and sneezes so easily spreads from one child to another. The fluid in saliva and the blisters also carries the infection and so contact between kids can result in the illness spreading. Unfortunately toddlers love kissing and hugging so they are particularly susceptible. Stools can also contain the virus and this is why it’s so easily passed from child to child in a creche environment where lots of nappy changing is going on.
Tips to minimise infection:
- Keep you child away from creche or school whilst they are unwell.
- Avoid sharing utensils and cups.
- Wash all bedding and clothing which has come in contact with saliva or blisters.
- Good hand hygiene – Encourage everyone in the household to wash their hands thoroughly and regularly.
- ‘catch it, kill it, bin it’ – dispose of all tissues properly after use.
- Don’t burst blisters as the fluid inside them is infectious.
- Cold drinks and ice pops can be soothing for your little one.
Hand foot and mouth generally requires no specific treatment as it will resolve by itself within approximately 7-10 days. However depending on your child’s range of symptoms you may choose to offer some of the following over the counter treatments to relieve pain, temperature or discomfort.
- Paracetamol or ibuprofen when appropriate and in accordance with manufactures recommendations for the relief of pain and fever. Read more about treating a high temperature on my blog here https://wonderbaba.ie/2015/01/12/temperatures-what-they-are-and-how-to-treat-them/
- Encourage your child to drink plenty of non acidic fluids (avoid things like orange juice or fizzy drinks) to prevent dehydration. Water and milk are good options – read more about dehydration here https://wonderbaba.ie/2015/04/23/a-wonderbaba-guide-to-dehydration/
- Use bonjela on sore ulcers in the mouth if your child is over four months of age. It is an anti-inflammatory pain killer and antiseptic so should soothe ulcers effectively See the patient information leaflet here : . http://www.medicines.ie/medicine/14571/PIL/Bonjela+Oromucosal+Gel/
- If your child’s mouth is very sore from ulcers it might be worth trying Difflam spray – the dose is one puff per 4kg in weight for children under six years. I would only recommend using it if your child is over two years and is capable of holding their mouths open to allow you to use the spray to help them feel better. Read the packaging for up to date manufacturers guidelines before use.
You can usually treat this condition at home yourself using the above information but if your child is in a lot of pain and is unable to swallow then it is important to watch for signs of dehydration (https://wonderbaba.ie/2015/04/23/a-wonderbaba-guide-to-dehydration/). If you are unsure that your child’s rash is hand foot and mouth disease then I would also contact your doctor. The symptoms of this illness should resolve themselves within 7-10 days so if your child is still suffering at that point I would also recommend a trip to your GP.
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!