Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease In Children: Symptoms And Cure

Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease In Children

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We all know that maintaining good personal hygiene is essential for good health. But how many of us actually practice good hygiene? We all have those days when we’re running late and don’t have time to shower or when we’re feeling too lazy to wash our hands on returning home. And, the younger members of the house, the children, need constant reminders on personal hygiene. It is crucial that your child develops healthy hygiene habits. Certain diseases like the hand, foot, and mouth in kids or HFMD disease, can be prevented by practicing good hygiene at all times.

Here is an overview of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease in children and what you can do about it. Read our post to learn more.

What Is Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease?

HFMD or hand, foot and mouth disease is spread by a virus. It is the Coxsackie Virus A16 belonging to the Coxsackie group of enteroviruses which is the primary cause of HFMD [1]. It is a very contagious intestinal virus. Mostly, strains of enterovirus and coxsackie virus are responsible for the spread of this disease. These viruses belong to the Picornaviridae family.

Hand, foot and mouth disease can lead to blisters in the mouth, feet, hands and especially, in the area covered by the diaper. Also, some of the ill-effects of HFMD are mild fever, rash and small bumps on the skin, on the hands, mouth, feet, buttocks and private parts. The infection does not last for more than ten days.

Another common cause of hand, foot and mouth disease or HFMD is the EV-71 or Enterovirus 71. These enteroviruses and coxsackie viruses mainly start spreading through the feces, mucus, and saliva of an infected person. Usually, children under the age of 10 contract hand, foot and mouth disease, but even teenagers and adults can get it.

You will find that most adults have already been affected by this disease at some point during their childhood. In the summer and autumn months, you will probably hear of some HFMD cases occurring because this disease spreads easily during warm weather. HFMD epidemics mostly occur in kindergarten and primary schools.

It is hard to tell if you have been affected by the virus until about three to six days after you have been exposed to it. The virus has an incubation period and it only after this period finishes that the symptoms appear. The rash, which is a part of this disease, usually goes away in a week’s time.

Often hand, foot and mouth disease is confused with the foot and mouth disease that plagues sheep, pigs, and cattle. Foot and mouth disease very rarely, if ever, affects human beings. Rest assured that you would definitely not be able to catch HFMD from any animal!

Causes Of Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease In Children

We already know that HFMD virus is caused mainly by two types of virus strains:

  1. Coxsackievirus A16, A 10 or A6
  2. Enterovirus 71 or EV-71

Doctors believe the virus first heads to the tissue within the mouth, in proximity to the tonsils and finally down to the digestive system. From there, the virus the moves close to the glands or lymph nodes and then moves further into the body, through blood. But the virus is stopped from entering critical organs like the brain by the immune system, which is basically the body’s defense against diseases.

Now, we know how it starts. But how does this disease spread from person to person? Hand, foot and mouth disease is extremely contagious, and any person affected by it is likely to spread it around until maybe, a week after the symptoms show up. It can spread in many ways, like:

1. Through An Infected Person’s Blisters:

If for some reason, your child comes in direct contact with the fluids that flow out from a person’s blisters, he will most likely be affected by hand, foot and mouth disease [2]. If someone you come in close contact with has been affected by HFMD, ensure that you are always covered up when in the presence of that person. Wear long pants and long-sleeved t-shirts or even sweatshirts, if possible.

[ Read: Coxsackie Virus In Child ]

2. Through An Affected Person’s Saliva:

One of the most common ways hand, foot and mouth disease spreads. Children very often share food with one another or end up eating from the same spoons and drinking from the same water bottles. This allows your child to come in touch with an infected child’s saliva.

3. Through Contaminated Droplets From An Infected Person:

Very often, children catch hand, foot and mouth disease by accidentally inhaling contaminated airborne droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs next to them. Also, touching surfaces that have been previously touched by infected individuals and then eating with the same hand without washing it can lead to HFMD.

If the virus is suspended in the air, there are high chances of your child breathing it in and getting infected. Of course, once the infected person has been given a clean bill of health, the virus cannot spread in this manner. However, if a person is infected with HFMD, the virus can still be present in the feces of the person for quite a long time, for around four weeks after the symptoms of HFMD have disappeared [3].

Hand, foot and mouth disease is most commonly found occurring in nurseries or schools – any place where there are a large number of children below the age of 10. Also, this usually occurs at places where little children need their nappies changed and where they make use of a potty, like childcare centers.

If your child has been affected by hand, foot and mouth disease, you should keep him home until the pediatrician gives him a clean bill of health. Although, you don’t necessarily have to wait till the very last blister disappears from his skin. Just ensure that the pediatrician is convinced that your child is no longer contagious.

You will find, however, that some schools and nurseries have very strict policies and may not allow your child to come to class until all the blisters have disappeared. Generally, children will only get hand, foot and mouth disease once during their childhood because as they grow up, they slowly become immune to those particular viruses which cause HFMD. However, there have been a few cases where a child gets affected by hand, foot and mouth disease more than once.

[ Read: Strep Throat In Children ]

Symptoms Of Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease In Children:

How can you tell when your child has been affected by hand, foot and mouth disease? Well, there are certain signs and symptoms that you can watch out for. These signs and symptoms usually show up about three to six days after your child has been exposed to the virus. You will find, however, that the rash and blisters which are characteristic of hand, foot and mouth disease generally start developing about four to nine days after your child has been affected by the virus.

The symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease in kids that you need to watch out for are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Slight nausea
  • Bouts of vomiting
  • Mild fever
  • Frequent headaches
  • A bit of a sore throat
  • Facial ulcers or lesions around the nose and mouth
  • Painful looking blisters on the gums and tongue which are red in color
  • Irritable mood
  • Painful but generally non-itchy red-colored rash found on the soles of the feet and the hands [4]

The first thing you may notice is that your child complains of a sore throat, feels tired very fast and often has a fever with a temperature between 38 degrees Celsius (101 degrees Fahrenheit) and 39 degrees Celsius (103 degrees Fahrenheit).

The painful red blisters that generally develop in the mouth are very similar to cold sores. The red-colored rash that develops on the feet and hands might show up a day or two after your child has been affected by the virus. This rash can often turn into very painful blisters. Sometimes, you may notice rashes appearing on the skin before the blisters develop. You may also notice some sores appearing in the buttock area, and on the knees and elbows. Blisters burst after a couple of days, and a crust develops around them. This is how you know that they are healing. These blisters and sores usually disappear in a week’s time.

If your child develops sores in the mouth, it can often be difficult to swallow and hence, you need to ensure that your child gets the proper nutrition. Try giving him soups and fresh fruit juices. Sometimes, the symptoms of HFMD in kids are too mild to notice, and parents can easily contract the disease even before realizing that their child is infected. So, beware!

[ Read: Fever Blisters In Children ]

Complications Due to Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease In Children:

Generally, hand foot and mouth disease or HFMD in kids isn’t a very severe disease and is actually quite common. A large number of children below the age of ten contract this disease. But there are some complications that can arise from contracting this disease:

1. Dehydration:

Children, who have hand foot and mouth disease, find it difficult to swallow due to the presence of sores in the throat and mouth. These sores can be quite painful. Due to this, your child may consume less water and fluids, leading to dehydration.

It is imperative that you provide your child with sufficient fluids during this period. Make sure that he drinks enough water and fresh juices on a regular basis. If, however, your child becomes severely dehydrated, it requires immediate medical attention.

[ Read: Dehydration In Children ]

2. Brain Inflammation Or Encephalitis:

This disease is life threatening and is caused by a very dangerous coxsackie virus. However, getting encephalitis (swelling of the brain) because of hand foot and mouth disease is extremely rare!

3. Inflammation Brain Membranes Or Viral Meningitis:

This inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and cerebrospinal fluid (which is present in the spinal cord and brain) is also caused due to a rare infection. Some of the signs of aseptic meningitis (viral meningitis) are backaches, headaches, stiff neck and mild to high fever. [5]

Other Complications:

HFMD in children is usually not a life-threatening disease. It causes a mild fever and a few rashes, blisters and cold sores. However, a very rare strain of coxsackie virus can affect the brain and result in serious complications that can be fatal if not treated. Some other complications that can arise are bleeding in the lungs, presence of fluid in the lungs and inflammation of the heart.

There is a risk of abortion if a pregnant woman catches this virus during the very early stages of pregnancy. Infection of the fetus can also prove to be a major problem and hence, pregnant women have to be extremely careful and take preventive measures if they come in contact with a person or child affected by hand foot and mouth disease. The best thing to do in such a case is to take the pregnant woman to a hospital or medical clinic to ensure that she and the fetus haven’t been affected by the virus.

How To Make Your Child Feel More Comfortable:

Doctors advise you to do the following to make your child feel more comfortable while he is recovering from hand foot and mouth disease:

1. Bed Rest:

The most important thing your child should do is rest. Make sure he does not exert himself as the body needs a lot of rest to get the immune system up and running.

2. Mouthwash:

Make your child use a mouthwash or a mouth spray to lessen the pain caused due to sores and blisters inside the mouth. There are many sprays and gels which can help with this. The best one is topical lidocaine gel because this can be given to children of all ages. So, you don’t have to worry! If your child is five and above, you can give him benzydamine mouth spray instead. For kids aged 12 and above, benzydamine mouth rinse is another good option.

3. Painkillers:

Give your child a painkiller, such as Advil, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Motrin IB or Acetaminophen, to relieve some of his pain. If your child is under 16 years, do not give him aspirin. It is important to remember this because giving aspirin to a child below 16 years of age could lead to severe medical complications like Reye’s Syndrome, which affects the brain and liver. However, keep in mind, that these are ineffective in curing fevers and will not improve his overall condition or enable him to recover from hand, foot and mouth disease faster.

[ Read: Painkillers For Children ]

4. Fluids:

While swallowing can be a bit of a difficulty what with the sores and blisters present in the mouth and throat, you need to ensure your child consumes enough liquids for his body to get the necessary hydration. Do not give your child acidic liquids, like sodas and citrus juices. These will cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat. Instead, give your child plain water, ice cubes to suck and cold milk. These fluids will soothe the mouth and throat.

5. Paracetamol:

If one of the symptoms that your child has is mild to high fever, give him paracetamol. This will lower his temperature and also help ease the other symptoms caused by the fever.

6. Blisters:

You could try putting some kind of soothing medicinal cream on his blisters to offer relief. Calamine lotion is an effective cream for blisters and sores on the body. Do not let your child poke or burst the blisters. It is imperative that you allow them to dry out by themselves. The fluid that comes out when you burst a blister can be highly infectious. [6]

Home Remedies For Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease In Children:

1. Garlic:

We are sure you know that garlic has excellent antibiotic properties! Since swallowing garlic can pose a problem, make a nice soothing garlic infused tea. Boil a few cloves of garlic in one or two cups of water for about 8 to 10 minutes. Garlic tea will not only speed up the healing process but will also help to soothe a sore throat. If you need a little sweetness, add a bit of honey to the tea. However, since garlic is capable of thinning the blood, you may want to consult your medical practitioner before letting your child drink the garlic tea.

[ Read: Benefits Of Garlic For Kids ]

2. Elderberry Syrup:

Elderberry is a fantastic immunity booster. If your child shows even the slightest symptoms of HFMD or any virus, give him a big spoonful of elderberry syrup. You can give your child elderberry syrup three times a day without worrying about the side effects. If your child tends to make a fuss about taking syrup, try giving him elderberry lozenges. Just convince your little one the lozenges are candies and you can be sure he will find it hard to resist them!

3. Licorice Root:

This is another home remedy which is extremely effective in soothing sore throats. Licorice root tends to form a thin layer of mucus which coats the esophagus, throat, and digestive tract. Make licorice root tea and let your child have a little bit. It will ease the throat and also alleviate the pain. It is also an excellent pain reliever as well. Make sure you run this home remedy past your doctor before using it.

4. Salt Water Rinses:

Salt water rinses and gargling are excellent for soothing a sore throat as well as the ulcers and blisters inside your kid’s mouth and throat. This provides relief, especially if your child has problems swallowing or experiences pain while trying to swallow food or drinks. Add half a teaspoon of salt and mix it in a glass of water and gargle or rinse your mouth with this.

Antibiotics are pretty ineffective against hand, foot and mouth disease since this infection is caused by a virus and not a bacteria. So, taking any antibiotics will not really help your little one. If, however, your child develops secondary skin infection due to the rash and blisters, consult your pediatrician before you use any antibiotic.

Consulting an herbal specialist or an ayurvedic medical practitioner is the best if you are seeking further home remedies for treating hand foot and mouth disease. Usually, children affected by HFMD take about five to seven days to recover from this disease, depending on what remedies they are using. If your child has a high fever which isn’t going down despite medication, is severely dehydrated or is experiencing any sort of seizures or convulsions, rush him to a hospital immediately. He will require more advanced care and treatment.

Preventing Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease In Children:

Hand foot and mouth disease can spread instantly and cause huge epidemics. It is highly contagious and hence, it is crucial to know what steps you can take to prevent your child from getting infected.
Do not use the same utensils used by an infected person.

  • Do not use the same personal care products like soaps and towels
  • Tell your child to carry a pack of tissues and sneeze into them and to dispose of them immediately.
  • Try to wipe down work surfaces or common areas like dining tables, kitchen counters as much as possible.
  • Make sure your child washes his hands before eating anything and as soon as he comes indoors.
  • Ensure your child washes his hands thoroughly after using the toilet.
  • If your child wears diapers, you should wash your hands with soap and water after changing his diaper.
  • Wash your child’s clothes and bed linen separately and with hot water and soap [7].

In Conclusion:

It can be terrible to see your child suffer. Sometimes, even if you take all precautions, your child may get hand, foot and mouth disease. Usually, it is not life-threatening. However, it is always best to consult a qualified pediatrician to prevent complications, which can be fatal.

Has your child ever got infected by the coxsackie virus and developed hand, foot and mouth disease? What measures did you take to facilitate healing? We want to hear from you. So feel free to comment below.

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