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Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old. However, it can sometimes occur in adults. HFMD is caused by a group of viruses known as Enteroviruses which include Coxsakie A 16 (CA 16) and Enteroviruses 71 (EV 71)
HFMD and mouth disease is often confused with foot-and-mouth disease (also called hoof-and-mouth disease). They are not the same.
The viruses that cause HFMD can be found in an infected person’s: nose and throat secretions (such as saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus), blister fluid, and feces (stool).
An infected person may spread the viruses through: close personal contact, the air (through coughing or sneezing), and contact with feces, contaminated objects and surfaces
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of HFMD usually start with a fever, poor appetite, a vague feeling of being unwell (malaise), and sore throat. One or 2 days after fever starts, painful sores usually develop in the mouth.
They begin as small red spots that blister and that often become ulcers. The sores are often in the back of the mouth. A skin rash develops over 1 to 2 days. The rash has flat or raised red spots, sometimes with blisters. The rash is usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; it may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area.
Some people, especially young children, may get dehydrated if they are not able to swallow enough liquids because of painful mouth sores.
Persons infected may only get mouth sores or skin rash however on rare occasions, complications involving the heart or brain could occur.
HFMD is one of many infections that cause mouth sores. Health care providers can usually tell the difference between mouth sores caused by hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Depending on how severe the symptoms are, samples from the throat or stool may be collected and sent to a laboratory to test for the virus.
There is no vaccine to protect against the viruses that cause HFMD.
A person can lower their risk of being infected by:
- Washing hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet.
- Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or your elbow not your hand.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and soiled items, including toys.
- Avoiding close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people with HFMD.
- Persons who are concerned about their symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.
- Do not share food or drinks.
There is no specific treatment for HFMD. However, some things can be done to relieve symptoms, such as:
- Taking over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever.
- Using mouthwashes or sprays that numb mouth pain
- If a person has mouth sores, it might be painful to swallow. However, drinking liquids is important to stay hydrated.
Exclusion from school:
Children with HFMD should remain at home until all the blisters have dried up. During this period, contact with other children should be avoided until fully recovered. The child should not be taken to crowded or public places and should remain at home for a period of 7 – 10 days.
As HFMD is highly contagious, other children living in the house may also get infected. Parents are advised to check children daily.
Parents are also advised to be alert to any change I your child’s normal behavior including irritation, sleepiness and if in doubt – contact a medical Doctor for advice.
Please notify the School Health Centre if your child is diagnosed with HFMD at email@example.com alternatively contact 3758 1551 ext 8911.
Once informed, the SHC will send out a parent letter to all parents in the class and advise them of what to be aware. The SHC will organize the thorough cleaning of the classroom involved.
References: CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) online access 25 October, 2013.
Reviewed: October 2013.KH