Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease Spreads Among Mumbai’s Children
Mumbai has been hit by a new scare – and no, it’s not a terrorist threat. After the recent swine flu epidemic, it is now hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) – a viral illness that affects infants, children as well as adults – that is holding the city to ransom.
I caught up with a medical practitioner friend of mine to get a quick low-down on this disease, and here’s what I was told:
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is fairly easy to spot – the symptoms include fever and a skin rash which often also includes blistering in and around the mouth. Because of the similarity of symptoms, hand, foot, and mouth disease is sometimes mixed up with foot-and-mouth disease.
In fact, HFMD has nothing to do with foot-and-mouth disease, which affects only certain animals. The viruses involved are completely different, which means that pets or other animals cannot transmit HFMD.
Hand Foot And Mouth Symptoms
The initial signs to watch out for are feverishness, a sore throat, decreased appetite and vague but ill-defined complaints of ‘not feeling well’. If your child displays such symptoms, you should put yourself on yellow alert for possible hand, foot, and mouth disease.
If he or she develops painful disease sores on the tongue, insides of the cheeks and gums, you can more or less take hand, foot, and mouth disease as confirmed.
Your child may also have a skin rash typified by flat or raised red spots that will crop up on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and sometimes on the buttocks and genitalia. Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a strong possibility even if only the mouth sores or the skin rash appear.
The culprit comes from the enterovirus group of viruses – a rather malicious family that includes coxsackieviruses, polioviruses and echoviruses. This virus houses itself in the affected child’s nose and throat secretions, spit, blister fluid and stools.
Infection happens fairly rapidly, since this virus spreads by person- to-person contact – something that is virtually unavoidable in a school or kindergarten setting. It can also infect your child if he or she touches a surface that is contaminated by the virus.
The most infectious phase of hand, foot, and mouth disease is the first week of onset, but the virus can stay in the affected child’s body for weeks after the initial symptoms have disappeared. In other words, a person with hand, foot, and mouth disease that is now symptom-free can still pass it on to someone else.
Children most at risk for hand, foot, and mouth disease are those below ten years of age. Kids in this age bracket often do not have the protective antibodies that adults have.
The good news is that infection generally leads to immunity (reinfection can occur). The bad news is that medical science has not yet developed a specific treatment for HFMD. The disease has to be treated symptomatically, especially in terms of the mouth sores, fever and aches.
Over-the-counter meds will usually do the trick, and you can make your child use a mouthwash to kill germs and lessen the mouth pain. Make sure that your child gets enough fluids, because chances of dehydration are rather high in hand, foot, and mouth disease.
While there are no real preventative measures in terms of vaccines, you CAN reduce the possibility of your child catching HFMD by ensuring rigorous hygiene practices such as regular washing of hands. This applies to both your child and you – don’t neglect to scrub your hands after changing baby’s diapers or using the toilet.
Clean possibly contaminated surfaces and items such as toys with soap and water, and follow up with a chlorine solution rinse. Also, forget about hugging, kissing and other direct contact while the infection lasts.
© Arun Chitnis
Arun Chitnis is a professional content and copywriter, proof-reader and editor. He wields his pen on a diverse range of topics, but his primary areas of interest are medical and lifestyle issues, family dynamics, parenting, natural health, home improvement, real estate, humor and fiction.
- Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease (HFMD) Facts from the CDC
- Hand Foot and Mouth Disease Treatment, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis from MedicineNet
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Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
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