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What Parents Should Know About HFMD

“We have had some cases of students with HFMD at school this month. If you notice your child has HFMD-like symptoms, please visit a medical professional as soon as possible for diagnosis.”

Pre-schooler parents are familiar with such health bulletins from schools. School kids are somewhat prone to infections since they can easily get viruses from another infected classmate. Aside from the typical contagious diseases of flu, coughs and colds, and chickenpox, schools are getting more cases of HFMD recently. If the name’s fairly new to your ears, then here’s everything you need to know about HFMD.

What is HFMD?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease or HFMD is a common infection caused by a group of viruses. It is contagious and is quite common in infants and children under 5 years old, although it can also make adolescents and adults sick as well. Its name came from the blister-like rash that’s usually found on the hands, foot, and mouth of the infected kids. HFMD is completely different and unrelated to the foot-and-mouth disease that affects cattle, sheep, and swine.

How do I know if my kid has HFMD?

HFMD’s symptoms that you need to watch out for include:

  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose

These can then be followed by:

  • Blister-like rashes on the hands, feet, and mouth
  • Painful ulcers in the mouth, throat, and tongue
  • Bouts of vomiting and diarrhea

How can my kid get HFMD?

HFMD can be transmitted through direct contact with nose and throat discharge, saliva, fluid from the blisters and stool of the infected individual. A kid with HFMD is considered contagious during the first week and may remain so until the blister-like rashes have disappeared.

Is my kid at risk for HFMD?

If your kid is already attending school or loves to go to play centers, then he can get infected with HFMD. Being in close contact with other kids who might have the disease, and common areas and shared items that are not immediately disinfected increases the risk.

The risk of HFMD lessens as kids age and their bodies build up an immunity against it. However, older kids and even adults can still contract the disease.

I think my child has HFMD, what can I do?

It is best to visit and consult your trusted pediatrician when your child…

  • Becomes extremely irritable
  • Doesn’t eat or drink and refuses to do so
  • Is lethargic
  • Seems to be dehydrated (dehydration symptoms include: decreased frequency of urination or dark, yellow urine; dry and sticky mouth; dry, cool skin; sunken eyes; little or no tears when crying; soft spot or sunken fontanelle for babies)

Your doctor can officially diagnose HFMD by considering your child’s age, symptoms, and the appearance of rashes or sores. At the same time, he can also request for tests (via throat swab or stool sample) to confirm the virus.

My child has HFMD, how can I treat him?

HFMD has no specific treatment, but there are ways to treat some symptoms that could cause discomfort to your child. Also, note that treatments and medications should always be discussed with your pediatrician/doctor.

  • Doctor-prescribed fever and pain medications for fever and pain relief.
  • Mouthwash and sprays that can relieve any discomfort in the mouth and throat.

Other home remedies you can try are:

  • Give cold treats such as ice cream, popsicles, shakes, and even regular ice chips to numb pain in the mouth and throat. You can try this if your kid is complaining of or seems to be having difficulty in swallowing.
  • Clean the areas with blisters by washing them with lukewarm water and patting them dry. For popped blisters, you can apply antibiotic ointment and cover it with a bandage to prevent infection.
  • Keep your child hydrated by offering cold water or milk. Refrain from giving him acidic drinks such as soda and fruit juices in the meantime.
  • Offer your child soft food such as porridge and soup dishes. Refrain from salty or spicy food as these can make the mouth sores sting.
  • Ask your child to rinse his mouth with warm water after meals. You can also opt to add salt to reduce the inflammation of sores.

My child had HFMD, when is it safe for him to go back to school?

The incubation period of HFMD is between 3 to 5 days (with a range from 2 days to 2 weeks), so observe and monitor your child if his symptoms have lessened. It is also better to consult and secure a medical certificate from your doctor to ensure that he is well enough to return to school.

At the same time, here are a few steps to check if your child is well enough to go back to school:

  • Regularly take your child’s temperature to monitor whether he still has a fever or not.
  • Watch out for mouth ulcers, especially ones on the tongue, inner sides of the mouth and lips.
  • Check for blisters on his hands and feet. If he still has small pinkish/reddish bumps or tiny blisters with fluids on his palms, back of hands, the upper part of the feet, and soles, then he’s still not well enough for school.

Is there anything I can do to prevent HFMD?

HFMD does not have a vaccine, but here are a few simple tips you can do to prevent your kid from acquiring and spreading the disease:

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom and changing diapers, and before handling food. Use hand sanitizers or alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect common areas or shared toys and items. Doing so can prevent the spread of HFMD and even other viruses.
  • Teach proper hygiene to your child. Explain to your kids the importance of maintaining good and proper hygiene and why they should refrain from putting their fingers or toys into their mouths.

Having HFMD can be quite an uncomfortable experience for your child, but do note that with the aforementioned measures and with the help of your doctor, you can manage the disease and help your child feel better during this time. At the same time, if your child does get HFMD, it is important to handle it responsibly by practicing proper hygiene and keeping him home to prevent outbreaks.

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