Balancing act: Treating hand, foot and mouth disease
March 25, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC --
What is hand, foot and mouth disease and how can IAca,!E+limit my child's exposure to the illness'
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common viral illness that affects infants and children.
The illness is generally mild. Symptoms include a fever, poor appetite, sore throat, and a general feeling of illness.
One or two days following the onset of the fever, small red spots that blister develop and are often visible in the mouth, on fingers, palm of hands, buttocks and soles of feet. A non-itchy skin rash may also develop. The blisters may be present for as long as seven to 10 days. Sometimes the oral blisters may make it difficult for the child to eat or drink.
HFMD is contagious and can be spread by the respiratory system through coughing and sneezing, by direct contact, and stool of infected persons. The infected person is most contagious during the first week of the illness.
The viruses that cause HFMD can remain in the body for several weeks after the symptoms have gone away, consequently, the infected person can still pass the infection to other individuals. Frequently, adults that contract the virus are asymptomatic or have no symptoms. The health care provider can usually diagnose HFMD by a physical evaluation and symptoms reported by the parent.
There is no specific treatment for HFMD. Comfort measures or treatment for relief of symptoms may include: over-the- counter pain medication appropriate for children (aspirin should not be given to children), insuring adequate fluid intake and rest. Complications of the virus are not common, but if they do occur, medical care should be sought. There is no vaccination available for HFMD.
HFMD prevention tips:
-- Good hand-washing is essential.
-- Covering all coughs and sneezes with either a disposable tissue or properly coughing or sneezing into a shirt sleeve. This is a perfect time to review proper hand-washing and "cough into a sleeve" techniques.
-- Avoid direct and close contact with infected individuals.
-- Clean dirty surfaces and soiled items, to include toys; first with soap and water, then with a diluted bleach solution (1 tablespoon of bleach to 4 cups of water).
A frequently asked question is whether a child diagnosed with HFMD can remain in the child care setting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has no specific guidance for exclusion from a day care or school setting.
Generally, during the first few days of the illness the child is kept at home, which will reduce exposure to other children. Policy exclusion guidelines for the specific child care or school setting should be followed for all illnesses.
Information for this article was gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Editor's note: Fort Jackson's Army Public Health Nursing department is part of Moncrief Army Community Hospital's Department of Preventive Medicine. Its staff of six provides health education to the Fort Jackson community. The staff members also serve as medical consultants to the post's Child Development Centers.