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Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Children

What is hand, foot, and mouth disease?

This condition, although not a serious one, is highly contagious and is common among children under ten years of age. The typical effects of this viral disease is that the affected child would have sores in the mouth as well as on the hands and feet. These mouth sores can be painful, thus making it difficult for the child to eat.


Since it is not a serious disease, it will actually disappear within a week or so. Hand, foot, and mouth disease is common during summer and fall but can occur all year round. This disease should be deemed separate from the common condition called foot and mouth disease which appears in cattle or otherwise called as mad cow disease.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease Symptoms

The symptoms of hand foot and mouth disease in children starts with a body malaise. The child would not anymore engage himself in certain activities because fever would then set in. In addition to fever, the child would also experience a sore throat. The sores and blisters would then appear in a day or two, and they usually appear in palms of the hands and fingers, the soles of the feet, the mouth especially on the tongue, gums and cheeks and sometimes on the buttocks and the legs. Also, in some cases, some children would even have rashes even before the blisters develop.

Pictures

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Picture 1: Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in children (blisters in and around the mouth and blisters on palms of hands)

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease in Children

Picture 2 : Blisters seen on hand, foot and mouth

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease picture

Picture 3 : Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Image  source : medicinenet.com

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease images

Picture 4 : Blisters on legs (Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease photo)

Image  source : pyroenergen.com

Causes

Hand, foot, and mouth disease in children is effectively linked to coxsackie virus A16, which is an enterovirus, as the most common causative factor of developing this viral infection. However, coxsackieviruses A5, A9, A10, A16, B1, and B31, herpes simplex, and enterovirus 71 are also believed to have caused the same disease.

This virus is spread to other individuals by direct contact of the virus through the person being infected. The areas of the body these viruses are usually present are on the nasal passages as well as the stool of the person infected and the blisters. Although the blisters may disappear within a week or so, but the bad thing about these viruses is that they stay in the respiratory system and the intestinal tracts for several weeks.

So even the previously ill individual is already healed of the symptoms, the infected person may still be able to contaminate another person. The person is most contagious during the first week, so it is indeed very important to have the patient brought to the physician as early as possible to establish the diagnosis and to prevent spreading the virus to another individual.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of hand, foot, and mouth disease do not really need laboratory exams because the virus can be identified through the lesions on the hands, feet, and the mouth. These viruses can be grown in culture and can be verified by immunologic methods.

One test called Tzanck smear is performed to isolate the condition from herpes simplex because hand, foot, and mouth disease is usually mistaken as herpes disease.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease Treatment

The main goal for treatment of hand, foot, and mouth disease in children is primarily supportive. A thorough evaluation and documentation as well as careful monitoring of the patient’s status as to lacrimation, mucosal membrane, skin turgor, urine output, pulse, capillary refill time, etc. would be the most important things to consider.

In cases of fever, antipyretics can be given to control the rise of the body’s temperature as a response to the infection.

If based in clinical assessment the patient needs intravenous hydration, this should be administered promptly to at least replenish what have been lost and maintain the body’s homeostasis and prevent electrolyte imbalance.

As-needed basis of acetaminophen and ibuprofen are used as first line medication to address mouth pains secondary to the blisters that have developed. In addition, codeine and topical anesthetics can also be used to manage dysphagia in some patients brought about by irritability, refusal to take in oral fluids, or even drooling.

In as much as there are medications to treat the disease, but hand foot and mouth disease have no identified standard drugs to directly treat the condition. In fact, antibiotics can only be given unless in the presence of complication secondary to the skin infection.

Prevention

Human as we are, we really cannot stop whatever disease that may come and afflict our vulnerable bodies, but there are always ways on how to prevent them from occurring. The same is true in the hand, foot, and mouth disease in children, considering that the most commonly affected individuals here are children under ten years old. This following are the common ways on how to prevent this disease from developing into a full blown one:

  1. The mouth sores would be obstacles for the affected individual to eat right, so drinking enough fluids is very important to avoid dehydration. Juices can just irritate the ulcers all the more so one might give ice cream, yogurt, cold milk and the likes because they are less irritating and the cold temperature would somehow give a comforting feeling on the sores. Also, these food items are rich in vitamins and minerals that can provide nourishment.
  2. The blisters may appear for two weeks, so it is imperative not to pop them so as not to spread the viruses to other individuals.
  3. If the child already shows signs of dehydration, stiff neck, pain in the back and the legs, convulsions, etc., make sure to bring the child to the physician immediately because these may indicate advanced infection.
  4. Observe and practice proper hygiene to prevent spreading the virus and to minimize the risk of infection.
  • Wash the hands properly and frequently. In the case of the mother, always wash the hands before and after changing the baby’s diaper to prevent the spread of the virus, most especially because the virus can be found in the feces.
  • Disinfect any contaminated materials and properly throw away soiled items.
  • As much as possible, avoid close contact with infected individuals.
  • If possible, children who have weeping blisters and those who tend to drool can be isolated for a period of time so as not to contaminate other healthy individuals and also to ensure that they are contained in an area wherein opportunistic bacteria may come and cause complications.

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