Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

It’s time to go to school. You prepare your child for school and suddenly notice that he is not his usual active self. You touch his forehead and find that he is slightly feverish. You grab your trusty thermometer to measure his temperature – 38.2C. Your child refuses his morning breakfast of cereal and milk, and complains that his throat is hurting. You see a couple of red spots in his mouth, and decide to bring him to the doctor.

 

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a very common disease in Singapore. Especially common in childcare centres, kindergartens and schools, it mostly affects children under the age of 10. Within the first 29 weeks of 2018, there were already 25,000 reported cases of HFMD in Singapore.

 

The symptoms of HFMD that can cause quite a bit of discomfort include:

  1. Fever
  2. Red spots on the gums, lips and roof of the mouth which turn into blisters. The blisters can be painful and can cause the child to turn away from food or, worse, fluids.
  3. Spots that turn into blisters usually appear on the hands and feet, and sometimes the buttock creases. These blisters dry up as the disease progresses and eventually clear up on their own.
  4. Inactivity and tiredness

 

Though distressing to the parent, HFMD is a self-limiting disease. The body’s immune system is usually strong enough to fight the disease, and the child usually recovers in seven to 10 days even if no treatment is given. There is no need for blood tests or swabs to confirm the diagnosis of HFMD as it can be made with the above symptoms and signs.

 

HFMD is, however, highly contagious, and spreads rapidly. Hence, it is advisable to keep the child away from school or public places until the blisters dry up. It is spread through infected saliva and close personal contact. Toddlers are usually victims to the disease as they play near their friends at childcare centres.

 

Here are some remedies to help your child tide through the disease:

  1. Paracetamol can be given for fever along with tepid sponging.
  2. Ice blocks or ice cream can be given to soothe the sore throat.
  3. Practising good hand hygiene and avoiding sharing of utensils or towels during the time of the illness limits the spread of the disease.
  4. Inosine Pranobex (Isoprinosine) has been found to be useful in certain viral infections; it is safe for a child and may speed up the recovery of his illness (consult your family physician for more information).

 

In conclusion, HFMD is very contagious. However, it is a self-limiting disease that usually resolves itself within seven to 10 days. It is essential to keep a child with the disease well hydrated and away from public places during the recovery period.

 

by Dr Chua Chong Bing

Family Physician, Healthway Medical Group

 

 

&

by Dr Philip Koh

Chairman, Medical Board, Healthway Medical Group

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