Childhood diseases – Hand, Foot & Mouth

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral infection of the coxsackie A or B virus or the enterovirus 71. It typically affects children under the age of 10 but older children as well as adults can be affected (usually developing milder symptoms).

The virus can be caught from direct contact with an infected person. After infection, symptoms usually appear after 3-6 days and a child remains infectious until the spots and ulcers have gone. The infection can continue to be carried for weeks afterwards (usually appearing in the faeces). Maintaining good hygiene after using the toilet is essential.

Symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease
– Feeling unwell
– High temperature
– Sore throat
– Small spots inside the mouth (progressing to ulcers)
– Small tender spots on the palms of the hand and soles of the feet (these spots appear in 3 out of four cases and can be present before the mouth ulcers or afterwards)

Treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease
Hand, foot and mouth is not usually a serious condition and will clear up after a few days although ulcers can be present for a while longer until they heal. The virus can affect the heart, lungs and brain causing inflammation but these complications are extremely rare.

Your child is likely to miserable while the virus runs its course and will find eating difficult. They may find food easier to eat if you mash it up but avoid acidic foods as this will make the ulcers even more painful. Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids and give them paracetamol (Calpol® or Disprol® for younger children) or ibuprofen (e.g. Cuprofen® for children) for the pain.

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