Just when we begin to live with Covid-19 in our midst, another infectious virus returns with a vengeance. This time, it’s hand, foot, and mouth disease, a viral infection that commonly affects infants and children below the age of 5. With cases on the rise, young children attending schools, kindergartens, and day care are increasingly at risk. If you suspect your child has caught the dreaded disease, don’t panic. We’ll lay out everything you need to know and what you can do at home to ease the symptoms.
What Is Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease?
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a viral infection common among young children and sometimes adults. It’s characterised by ulcers in the mouth, and rashes or blisters normally found on the hands and feet. In most cases, symptoms are mild and go away within seven to 10 days.
What Are Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease Symptoms?
From initial infection, hand, foot, and mouth disease symptoms usually take about four to six days to develop. They may include:
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling unwell
- Mouth sores or ulcers, often on the inside of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, and tongue
- Rashes or red spots, sometimes with blisters, on the hands, feet, and occasionally on the buttocks
Hand, foot, and mouth disease symptoms are generally the same across adults and children. However, they can be worse in infants and children under the age of 5 owing to their lower immunity.
How Long Does An Infected Person Stay Contagious?
Those infected are typically most contagious during the first week of illness. However, they can continue to spread the virus days or weeks after symptoms disappear, or even when they appear to be asymptomatic.
What Causes Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease?
According to the Malaysian Ministry of Health, this disease is most commonly caused by coxsackievirus A16. Infections by this virus are usually mild and benign.
More severe infections are caused by enterovirus 71. Although rare, it may lead to complications such as viral meningitis and encephalitis.
How Does Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease Spread?
Much like Covid-19, this disease is very contagious. It spreads through an infected person’s:
- nose and throat discharges
- fluid from blisters or scabs
Your child can catch the virus if they come into direct contact with an infected person, their discharges, or surfaces and objects contaminated with the virus.
How Do You Prevent Further Spreading?
Practising good personal hygiene and avoiding close contact with infected persons are key. Just remember to:
- Wash your hands with soap and water after changing diapers, using the toilet, or coming into contact with an infected person. In a pinch, use a sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Clean personal items and utensils thoroughly after use, and do not share them with others. Disinfect shared and frequently touched surfaces with chlorine-based disinfectants.
- Avoid touching the face or eating with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with infected people and stay home when infected.
What Are Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease Treatments?
In Malaysia, those showing symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease should visit a doctor to seek treatment.
As it is a viral infection with no available vaccines, treatment for mild cases is symptomatic. This means medication will be prescribed only to help relieve symptoms. It’s also vital to drink enough fluids and get sufficient rest in order to recover. In most cases, patients get better within seven to 10 days.
If your child’s condition does not improve or symptoms worsen, seek medical assistance.
Home Remedies To Relieve Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease Symptoms
On top of symptomatic hand, foot, and mouth disease treatment, give these easy and practical home remedies a try. They’ll provide some extra relief in conjunction with medication.
Homemade Popsicles Or Ice Cream
Surprise, surprise! Eating a popsicle or ice cream is actually useful in complementing hand, foot, and mouth disease treatment. This is because an icy cold treat can help numb the pain of mouth ulcers temporarily. Pick up a pint from an ice cream shop, or try making your own homemade popsicles with breastmilk, formula, or Greek yoghurt.
Salt Water Gargle
The mighty salt is a mineral packed with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. This is why the salt water gargle is a great supplement to hand, foot, and mouth disease treatment. Not only does it help speed up the healing process of mouth ulcers and sore throat, it also helps to keep lesions clean. All you need to do is dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. Gargle a few times a day or as often as needed.
Cold Beverage Or Milk
Making sure your child drinks sufficient fluids is an important part of hand, foot, and mouth disease treatment. To make drinking a little more bearable, try offering them a frosty glass of milk or smoothie. The cold beverage will help allay the pain in the mouth and throat. Just remember to steer clear of acidic drinks like fruit juices and soft drinks, as they may aggravate sore areas further.
Epsom Salt Bath
Contracting the disease usually means having rashes that sometimes turn itchy and downright uncomfortable. If medication or topical lotions can’t take the edge off, an Epsom salt bath or foot soak works wonders. Thanks to the magnesium in this salt, a 15-minute soak can help reduce itching and swelling. If you want to give the salt bath go, simply dissolve one cup of Epsom salt in a bathtub of tepid water.
Soft food won’t promote healing, but at least it’ll go down easier when swallowing is a pain. In Malaysian households, that usually means porridge. But if you want variety, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, smoothies, and soup are good alternatives. Be creative! But avoid hot, spicy, and fried food at all costs, as they can worsen inflammation.
If your kid is tired of plain ol’ water, entice them with some coconut water instead. This refreshing beverage contains natural electrolytes to rehydrate the body during a bout of illness. And drinking lots of fluids is important for recovery. Serving it cold or frozen as an ice lolly can also provide temporary relief for mouth and throat sores.
Raw honey is a good supplementary hand, foot, and mouth disease treatment. A study in 2009 found that honey is effective in speeding up the healing of oral ulcers. And because of its viscosity, this liquid gold also provides a protective barrier for wounds. Half a teaspoon is sufficient to coat the throat and soothe ulcers. Do note, however, that honey should not be fed to children below 1 year of age to prevent infant botulism.
Recover From Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease With Proper Treatment And Home Remedies
With proper medical treatment and a few home remedies, your child will soon recover from hand, foot, and mouth disease. Just be sure to take the necessary steps to prevent the infection from spreading! If you find yourself exhausted as a caretaker, consider ordering homecooked food delivery for a couple of weeks or unwind with a foot massage machine.