Everything you need to know about hand, foot and mouth disease
Tens of thousands of children get the virus each year, but it seldom causes illness, and then usually mild cases.
Young children, with immature immune systems, are at the greatest danger from the virus, called Coxsackievirus B1. The virus seems to surge in three- to four-year cycles and seems to be most visible in the spring and summer
The virus, named after the New York town of Coxsackie, can spread through droplets in the air, mouth-to-mouth contact, saliva, faeces, nose and throat mucus or fluid secreted from blisters.
In a tiny percentage of cases, the virus can overrun the liver, heart and lungs and cause bleeding in the brain.
There is no medicine or vaccine against the virus. Hand-washing, disinfection and other cleaning measures are the best protection.
Most children with mild forms of the illness recover quickly after suffering little more than a fever and rash:
How long is it contagious?
Generally, a person with hand, foot, and mouth disease is most contagious during the first week of illness.
People can sometimes be contagious for days or weeks after symptoms go away. Some people, especially adults, may become infected and not develop any symptoms, but they can still spread the virus to others.
Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease:
- Reduced appetite.
- Sore throat.
- Feeling unwell.
- Painful mouth sores that usually begin as flat red spots.
- Rash of flat red spots that may blister on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and sometimes the knees, elbows, buttocks, and/or genital area.
How to treat hand foot and mouth:
- Children with blisters on their hands or feet should keep the areas clean and uncovered.
- Wash the skin with lukewarm soap and water, and pat dry.
- If a blister pops, dab on a bit of antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection and cover it with a small bandage.
- Take over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever.
- Use mouthwashes or sprays that numb mouth pain.
- Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.