Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is a viral infection primarily affecting babies and young children under 5 years old. The disease is notably more prevalent during rainy seasons and winter months, and frequently spreads in childcare settings like nurseries or kindergartens. Though symptoms generally subside within a week, the condition can lead to severe, and in some instances, life-threatening complications.

Symptoms You Should Know

Initial Signs

In its early phase, Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease often mimics flu-like symptoms, including a 2-4 day-long fever and muscle aches.

Progression of Symptoms

As the infection advances, small red blisters start appearing, predominantly on the inner mouth, palms, and soles. These blisters eventually rupture, giving way to painful ulcers.

Risk of Complications

While symptoms typically vanish within 5-7 days, severe complications like meningitis, encephalitis, paralysis, and myocarditis can occur. Note that the severity of complications isn't correlated with the number of blisters; hence, vigilant monitoring is essential in the early stages of the disease.

What Causes Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?

The disease is triggered by a group of enteroviruses and can spread through both direct and indirect contact with the virus. It can emanate from nasal or throat secretions, blister fluids, and faecal matter. The virus can also spread through contaminated objects and surfaces.

When to Seek Medical Attention?

Consult a doctor immediately if your child exhibits:

  • General unwell feeling and appetite loss
  • Fatigue and pallor
  • Severe headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion and hallucinations
  • Neck stiffness
  • Startling easily; bodily shakes
  • Respiratory symptoms with or without fever

Diagnosis and Testing Procedures

Diagnosis generally involves a visual examination of the symptoms. For severe cases, the following tests may be conducted:

  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
  • Virus Culture

Treatment Guidelines

As of now, no specific treatment exists. Management focuses on symptomatic relief.

Patients struggling with eating may need to stay hydrated with fluids, and severe cases may require hospitalisation for intravenous fluid administration.

Prevention Strategies

Prevention remains the best approach. Key preventive steps include:

  • Avoiding contact with infected individuals
  • Adhering to hygiene practices
  • Using freshly cooked food and clean water
  • Not sharing utensils

Parents should also exercise precautions like washing hands immediately after cleaning the child and sanitising contaminated clothes or nappies.