Firstly, it is important to note that hand, foot and mouth disease [HFMD] is not related to the foot and mouth disease found in animals.
HFMD is a viral infection that causes a rash or blisters on the hands, feet and in or around the mouth. The disease mainly affects children and can be spread easily from child to child. It can also affect adolescents and can be contracted more than once, but the symptoms should be less severe.
The main way HFMD spreads is through contact with the fluid from inside the blisters or through droplets spread from sneezing and coughing. It can also be present in bowel movements for several weeks after your child has recovered so hand washing becomes even more important.
To help prevent the spread of HFMD:
Keep your child at home from school or childcare until all the fluid in the blisters has dried.
Make sure they do not share items such as cutlery, cups, towels, tooth brushes and clothing.
Wash your own hands thoroughly after touching your child, especially after nappy changing, toilet assistance or help blowing their nose.
There are two types of HFMD with varying symptoms depending on the virus type. If your child has HFMD, they start feeling more tired than usual, develop a fever and a rash. The rash differs between the two types of the virus, the rash can look like:
A red rash with a brown scale on it. The rash can appear on the outer arms, hands, legs, feet around the mouth and the upper buttocks. Sometimes there may be blisters but not usually in the mouth.
Small, oval, white blisters on the palms, soles of feet as well as in the mouth. This can cause a sore mouth and throat, which will reduce your child’s appetite and risk dehydration as eating and drinking can be painful because of the mouth blisters. The blisters should not be itchy.
As HFMD is a viral infection, antibiotics do not work on viruses and are not prescribed to children with HFMD. HFMD will improve on its own but there are things that you can do to care for your child at home:
Pain relief (if required) such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Provide regular sips of water or an oral rehydration solution to prevent dehydration.
Do not pierce or squeeze the blisters, let them dry naturally.
If your child has a fever and a skin rash (small bright red or purple spots or unexplained bruises) that does not turn to skin colour when you press on it this may be a sign of meningococcal infection. If unsure, please contact your doctor.
Should you have concerns always consult your healthcare professional.