Back to school basics: hand, foot and mouth disease


Back to school basics: hand, foot and mouth disease

September 20, 2020 6:43 pm Published by

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common illness among children, though many of us haven’t heard of it. It’s not the same as ‘foot and mouth’ disease – which affects farm animals – and it is usually a mild condition. It is however highly infectious, and it can spread easily in locations like schools. So – it’s a good idea to be familiar with the symptoms, and the best way to protect against it.

What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

It’s a viral infection that’s spread by bodily fluids – so children coughing, sneezing, or not washing their hands can easily spread it. The condition often starts with a fever, followed by red and painful blisters or sores in the mouth. A rash on hands and feet may follow a day or two later, and these can develop into blisters as well. Your child may lose their appetite and have a sore throat. They may also feel generally unwell. Very small children and toddlers, who are too young to explain what’s wrong, can be grumpy and irritable.

Who does it affect?

Young children are most at risk of catching hand foot and mouth because they haven’t yet built up their immune systems. Don’t panic though – because, the condition will usually go away by itself after a few days. It can infect older children and adults, but it’s much less common, and usually affects those who have compromised immune systems.

What do I do?

Because hand, foot, and mouth is a viral infection, antibiotics can’t help. But, there are a few things you can do to relieve symptoms. Soft foods can help avoid sore throats and mouth ulcers from getting worse. Bed rest is a good idea if they feel unwell. If symptoms are bad, then ibuprofen or paracetamol can help also. A pharmacist, kids’ dental specialist or pediatric dentist near you can advise. They may also be able to recommend mouthwashes or sprays to help with mouth ulcers and sore throats.

What should I be aware of?

Sometimes complications can set in. If sores develop in the throat, then it can be difficult and painful to swallow, and children can become dehydrated simply because they don’t want to drink. So, make sure your child has lots of fluids, even if it is just sipping at frequent intervals. Water is best and avoids fruit juice. If symptoms get worse, or if your child still struggles to drink fluids, you should call your doctor. In rare cases, the virus causing hand, foot and mouth can develop into serious conditions that affect the brain – so better safe than sorry.

How can I stop my child from getting it?

While it can be difficult for children to understand why they shouldn’t get close to others, close contact is, unfortunately, an easy way for the infection to spread! Good oral hygienic for kids takes just a few steps. Show your child how to wash their hand’s well-using soap and water, and to cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing. Use tissues to catch the germs and don’t let them share things like towels, cutlery, or dishes. Also, try to discourage your child from putting their hands in their mouths.

What should I do if I think they are infected?

The condition is infectious a few days before symptoms start, but it’s most infectious once you start to see them. So – if your child is complaining of a sore throat, has a high temperature, or feels unwell – keep them away from school or nursery and apart from other children, to avoid spreading the infection. It’s best to keep them resting at home until the
fever has gone, and mouth sores have healed up.

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