Hand, foot, mouth disease is common in a lot of babies, young children, and adolescents as well. HFMD for short is no stranger to children in the UAE and the fact its highly contagious means that parents and caregivers need to be on high alert, especially in the winter season.

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With that being said, let’s develop a better understanding of what the disease is, hows it’s caused and what we can do keep our children safe from it. 

Definition and Symptoms

Hand foot mouth disease

Hand, foot, mouth disease is a highly contagious viral infection that is spread through contamination and bacteria. It can be spread from food, condiments, physical contact, saliva and any other form of bacterial transfer.

It usually takes two to three days after initial contamination to develop physical symptoms and ten days until the disease fully goes away. The below symptoms are usually indicators if your child or baby has HFMD.

  • Common cold
  • Fever or flu
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping and waking up in the night
  • Irritability
  • Swollen hands or feet
  • Blisters in mouth
  • Loss of appetite

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is highly advised to speak with a doctor at first notice, and especially for newborns and children under the age of two. 

Causes of HMFD

Hand foot mouth disease

Hand, foot, mouth disease are often caused by a virus called coxsackievirus A16. The coxsackievirus belongs to a group of other viruses called enteroviruses. Although coxsackievirus is the most common cause of HFMD, it isn’t the only virus that causes it. The viruses causing HFMD is usually given through contact with an infected person’s:

  • Saliva
  • Faeces
  • Fluid from blisters
  • Respiratory droplets in the air after a sneeze or cough

The virus can also come from touching dirty, contaminated surfaces as well as not properly washing hands.

When to See a Doctor?

Hand foot mouth disease

If your child is demonstrating one or more of the above symptoms, remove your child away from other children and speak with a doctor immediately. Early intervention will prevent your child’s condition from becoming worse, as well as stopping the spread of the disease to other children.

Your doctor will be able to diagnose the child by taking a throat swab or stool sample and test the findings for the virus. Once the doctor can confirm whether the virus is present in the child, they will be able to provide you with the necessary treatments and course of action.

Treating Hand, Foot, Mouth Disease

Hand foot mouth disease

The good thing about HFMD is that it isn’t life-threatening and that without medication, it will go away after it runs its course. The disease will become milder as symptoms lessen after the fifth day before making a full recovery. Although time is the essential healing factor for HFMD, there are medications your doctor can provide, so the symptoms of the disease become more bearable.

There are also lifestyle factors and self-care treatments you MUST carry out for your child during the duration of the disease. 

Your doctor can prescribe your child with:

  • Prescription or over the counter ointment and topical products to soothe blisters and rashes as well as reducing the inflammation.
  • Pain relief medication for headaches, stomachaches and sore joints and muscles.
  • Medicated syrups or lozenges to help ease sore throats
  • Medication to combat common cold symptoms.

There are also at-home remedies and treatments that you can try to significantly lessen the symptoms of HFMD and aid the recovery process. At-home remedies include:

  • Sucking on popsicles or ice
  • Eat ice cream or something cold
  • Rinse out the mouth with salt water to disinfect and relieve the mouth from sore blisters
  • Avoid drinking or eating spicy or acidic fruits such as oranges, apples, fizzy drinks, and juices.
  • Rest more often and try not to touch skin that may have blisters

Prevention

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

Two reasons usually cause hand, foot, mouth disease. Poor hygiene or contracting the disease from someone else who has it. Be sure that you and your child are washing your hands thoroughly and properly. For babies, make sure you handle them with clean hands as well as not laying them on dirty surfaces that may have a lot of bacteria.

Make sure to sterilize surfaces you lay your baby on, as well as washing all feeding utensils well. Good hygiene can significantly decrease the chances of the disease.

As HFMD is highly contagious, make sure your child is taken out of school as soon as you know, they have contracted the illness and keep them at home. Wash all their clothes, bedsheets and toys as well as any other thing they may touch, so others don’t contract the disease from mishandling.

If your child is sick and is not sure what the problem is, take them to the doctor to have it diagnosed so you can protect your child as well as their peers.

Head over to the Okadoc app to immediately book an appointment with your health practitioner.