Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease : What you need to know
“Hand, foot and mouth disease is a very common viral disease of childhood which is easily passed from person to person. It usually causes a mild illness but rarely causes serious illness. It is not related to the foot and mouth disease that affects animals. Good hygiene helps prevent infection.”
What is hand foot and mouth disease?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is generally a mild illness caused by “Enteroviruses”, including “Coxsackieviruses”. It is usually not a serious illness and is not related to the foot and mouth disease that affects animals. It mainly occurs in children under 10 years of age but can also occur in older children and adults.
What are the symptoms?
Hand, foot and mouth disease starts with blisters that begin as small red dots which later become ulcers. Blisters appear inside the cheeks, gums, and on the sides of the tongue, as well as on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. In infants, blisters can sometimes be seen in the groin area. Blisters usually last for 7-10 days.
Children can sometimes have a low fever, sore throat, tiredness, feel off or melancholy and may be hungry for a day or two.
Very rarely, “Enteroviruses” can cause other illnesses that affect the heart, brain, lining of the brain “meningitis”, lungs, or eyes.
How is it spread?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is usually spread by person to person contact “Direct Contact”. The virus is spread from the feces of an infected person to the mouth of the next person by contaminated hands. It is also spread by secretions “saliva, spittle, sneeze, cough, nasal secretions” from the mouth or respiratory system, and be direct contact with the fluid from the blisters.
The virus usually takes between three and five days after contact with an infected person before blisters appear. The virus can remain in feces from 4 to 8 weeks “Up to 2 months or longer in some cases“.
Who is at risk?
The viruses that cause “Hand, foot & mouth disease” are common and normally only affect children up to the age of 10, however some adults may be affected in rare cases.
Many adults, including pregnant women, are often exposed to these viruses without symptoms. There is no clear evidence of risk to unborn babies from hand, foot and mouth disease. However infected mothers can pass the infection onto newborn babies who lack the ability to fend of the virus.
Daycare / Childcare / After or Pre- school settings – Outbreaks may occur in childcare settings “more than 3 confirmed cases. “You do not need to report Hand, foot and mouth disease to AHS or the CDC“, however the Daycare / school / childcare facility MUST report the illness or disease to the Parents of the children attending the facility or those who may be affected and give information on: “what to look for, how to treat the illness and how to prevent the spread Hand, foot and mouth disease.
How is it prevented?
Hand washing & Good hygiene is the best protection. Wash hands with soap and water after going to the toilet, before eating, after wiping noses, and after changing nappies / diapers or soiled clothing.
Avoid sharing cups, eating utensils, items of personal hygiene “for example: towels, scrub brushes, face towels, loofah, toothbrushes”, and clothing “especially shoes, socks & underwear”.
Hand sanitizer and surface surface sanitizer
Thoroughly wash any soiled clothing and any surfaces that may have been contaminated
- CLEANING – Hand, foot & Mouth is easily destroyed with Soap & Water, using solution of ¼ bleach & water, as well as alcohol based cleaning solutions.
Teach children about cough & sneeze etiquette “Cover your mouth when you cough / Sneeze into your sleeve” Coughing / Sneezing into an elbow is better than coughing into your hands.
Dispose of used tissues in the bin straight away, then wash your hands afterwards with soap and water.
How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose hand, foot and mouth disease based on the symptoms, laboratory tests are “not” usually necessary as this disease “should” resolve itself within 5-10 days.
How is it treated?
“Usually NO treatment is needed other than wound care.” Pharmaceuticals “Children’s Grade” to help lower fever and discomfort is available and does help with discomfort. “Do NOT give children aspirin”
Allow blisters to dry out naturally. The blisters should not be deliberately burst because the fluid within them is infectious. “Wash the affected area with soap and water, let dry with no ointment overnight”.
Topical antibiotic ointment like “Polysporin” may be used during the day ease tightness of the wounds, and help remove hard crusts that may appear, however the wounds must dry out overnight. “No Band-Aids or covers should be used”
- Make sure young children are drinking enough as painful mouth sores can make some children reluctant to swallow liquids.
What are the signs of a SERIOUS infection?
- Sings that an infant or older child might have a more serious form of hand, foot and mouth disease include any of the following:
- Persistent Fever “38C or above for 72 hours or more”
- Abnormal movements / jerking movements
- Rapid breathing
- Excessive tiredness, drowsiness
- Excessive irritability
- Difficulty walking
If any of these signs are present then the child should be seen by a doctor urgently even if they have been checked earlier in the illness.
How long should children stay away from Childcare & School settings?
Children with hand, foot and mouth disease should be excluded from school or childcare facilities until “Their blisters have dried-up”, and “any” rash “if present” has gone and “any” fever has settled.
- Often Hand, foot & mouth will run its course within 5-10 days, but may last up to 2 weeks with possibly contamination in the stool up to 2 months.
A child will only need to stay away from public places as long as the symptoms present themselves, if the child maintains good hygiene and hand washing and keeps their hands to themselves they may be in public places, “hand washing is the key”
What is the public health response?
As mentioned earlier, Hand, foot and mouth disease is not a modifiable disease under the Public Health Act. HOWEVER, to help prevent spread, “Parents / Guardians / Teachers / Day-Care workers” should report the illness to the director of the childcare center or the school principal so that affected students / parents are notified on the illness.
In Alberta Canada you can contact the “Health Link by phoning 811” at anytime to speak to a Dedicated Health Care Professional. They will help answer your questions and go through the illness signs and symptoms with you..
This information was taken From Center of Disease Control “CDC” (Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease) Information slip.
We never know what can happen, its always good to be prepared and have the knowledge we need to help those who need it.
“This material is for information purposes only and is taken from The Canadian Red Cross / Alberta Heart & Stroke Foundation & Alberta Health Services. This information should not be used in place of medical, Technical advice, instructor, and/or treatment. If you have questions, speak to your local Physician or Safety Training Facility.”
Protect Yourself!!! Call 911!!! Don’t Waste Time!!!