IN THIS series of 5 articles, we explore the 5 most common illnesses among children below 5.
Hand-Food-Mouth Disease (HFMD)
With the weekly number of Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease at an all-time high in 2018, it is important to understand how to recognize symptoms and how to prevent outbreaks, especially in schools and kindergartens. We talk about this disease in this week’s article.
HFMD is a viral infection that is highly contagious and usually begins in the throat. The common causes of HFMD are the Coxsackie Virus A16 and Enterovirus 71. Children below 5 years old are particularly susceptible. These viruses spread via direct contact with the nose and throat discharges, saliva, fluid from blisters and stools of the infected child.
Signs And Symptoms
- Fever, sore throat, drooling, loss of appetite, oral ulcers and rashes
- Erpangina (a similar condition but without the skin rashes) can also be managed in the same way as HFMD.
What Should You Do?
Parents and caregivers can help in the following ways:
- Give the child fever medicine to reduce his or her discomfort caused by the oral ulcers
- Maintain adequate hydration by giving the child frequent small amounts of fluid
- Keep the child at home to prevent spread of the virus
Parents are advised to consult a doctor if they suspect their child has HFMD. Usually doctors will issue the afflicted child with a medical certificate for a week. Childcare centres will ask for a fitness letter from a doctor before the child returns to the centre.
Previous Article About Coping With Sick Kids Under 5
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Presently, there is no vaccine to prevent HFMD.
Some preventive measures are:
- Practicing good hygiene including hand washing
- Shared toys should be routinely cleaned with disinfectant because the viruses can live on objects for several days
When To Seek Medical Attention
Parents should seek immediate medical attention if their child shows signs of dehydration or complications.
Signs of dehydration:
- Reduced urine output of less than 4 wet diapers in a day
Signs of complications:
- Drowsiness or extreme irritability
A Final Note from the Doctor
“Parents should note that antibiotics are prescribed only for the treatment of bacterial infections and not viral infections. Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease is caused by viral infections and thus antibiotics will not help in its treatment. As this illness is contagious, it is advisable to identify it early, seek medical attention and take precautions to prevent it from spreading”, says Dr Wong.