Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a viral disease just like chickenpox, measles. It is a highly contagious disease, but it’s very rarely life threatening.
What is Hand Foot Mouth Disease?
As the name suggests, children get tiny fluid filled lesions (vesicles) on hand, foot & mouth. These lesions can be sometimes very painful, especially in the mouth due to which the child refuses to eat anything. Lesions on hand, foot can be sometimes be itchy too.
HFMD is normally preceded by mild fever, cough, cold.
How does Hand Foot Mouth Disease occur?
- It spreads from person to person contact. Also, it may spread through nasal & throat secretions of an infected child.
- HFMD is commonly seen in playgroups, nurseries wherein 1 infected child spreads to the entire class.
- It can also spread through unwashed hands.
- It can spread through surfaces contaminated with faeces.
- Treatment is symptomatic. Analgesics like paracetamol are given to relieve pain, fever.
- Soothing lotions like calamine are given to apply over body to reduce itching. If itching is severe, then oral antihistamines are given.
- For oral or mouth lesions, one can use oral gels to apply over the lesions. Even if the child swallows the gel, it won’t harm.
- As appetite can be a concern due to mouth lesions, do not force your child to eat. Encourage your child to have lot of fluids either through glass or a straw.
- Normally I am not in favour of children having ice creams, but if oral lesions are too severe, then let your child have ice creams as it will relieve pain & fill their tummies too.
- Antibiotics have no role in HFMD.
- Tender coconut water– it contains Vitamins, minerals, electrolytes& antioxidants. Let your child have tender coconut water. It helps in filling the tummy & also reduces the pain.
- Oil pulling – this should be done in older children. Take tablespoon of any oil & ask your child to swish in his mouth for 5- 10 minutes & then spit it out. But make sure that your child doesn’t drink the oil.
- Cod liver oil – It contains vitamins A, D, E. It also has antimicrobial properties. It can be given in form of capsules or oil can be mixed in any juice or yoghurt.
- Salt water rinse – let your child rinse with salt water 3-4 times a day. This will help in reducing the pain.
- Garlic– It has strong antimicrobial properties. Give it to your child in form of capsules or in form of herbal tea by boiling 2-3 cloves of garlic in water& let him drink the water once it cools.
- Ginger– It has antiviral properties along with pain relief & sedation. Give it to your child in form of ginger tea along with honey.
- Pomegranate – It has anti-oxidant & anti-inflammatory properties. It can be given to your child either as juice or child can eat fleshy seeds.
- Apple Cider Vinegar– It contains Vitamins B & C. You can mix 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in warm water & ask your child to gargle it. It helps to soothe the throat.
- Tulsi – It fights microbes & reduces inflammation. It also helps in relief of pain. Let your child chew tulsi leaves or make a juice of leaves diluted with water.
- Aloe Vera – It has antimicrobial properties & also increases immunity. It also contains minerals, vitamins & several other compounds that are beneficial to the skin. You can apply aloe vera gel to rashes & blisters for soothing relief. It can also be given in form of juice to help heal faster from HFMD.
Can Hand Foot Mouth Disease reoccur?
The answer is yes. Infact, I have seen children getting HFMD in successive years.
How to prevent spread of Hand Foot Mouth Disease ?
- A child with HFMD should be isolated as long as the lesions do not subside. Children with HFMD should not be sent to playgroups, nurseries or school.
- Unfortunately, there is no vaccine which is available as of now against HFMD.
- Teach your child good hygiene practises like washing hands & feet after playing.
- Teach your child to wash hands with soap after using the bathroom.
- Also teach them to wash their hands thoroughly before & after meals.
Is Hand Foot Mouth Disease serious?
As per statistics, about 3-5 percent with HFMD can turn serious, commonest being brain involvement causing either viral (aseptic) meningitis or encephalitis. So we really need not worry about HFMD although as the saying goes – Prevention is better than cure.