During the winter months we think a lot about the transmission of cold and flu viruses. There are other viruses that are easily spread between children that parents and teachers should be looking for as well.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is one of those viruses.
Enterovirus 71, or hand, foot and mouth disease, is a very common illness in children. Though it often scares parents, it’s rarely fatal.
I think many parents get concerned because they confuse hand, foot and mouth disease with foot-and-mouth disease, also called hoof-and-mouth disease, a disease of cattle, sheep and swine. However, the two diseases are caused by different viruses and are not related.
Enterovirus 71 is spread from direct person-to-person contact with an infected person. The virus is most often found in the nose and throat so contact with a person’s saliva or nasal mucus can transmit the disease. Also, childcare workers and parents should take care when changing an infected infant’s diaper.
Symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease are:
- Sore throat
- Sores inside the mouth and on the tongue, and often on the hands, feet and sometimes buttock
- Lack of appetite
- Unwillingness to drink fluids
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to protect against the disease. The best way to prevent transmission is to:
- Wash hands with soap and water regularly, especially after changing an infant’s diaper or helping a child in the restroom
- Disinfect all surfaces and toys by washing them and then using a solution of chloride bleach (1 tablespoon of bleach and 4 cups of water)
- Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging or sharing eating utensils or cups with people with hand, foot and mouth disease.
If your child does get the disease, call your physicians to see if he or she should be evaluated in person. It usually lasts for seven to 10 days and is extremely contagious, so keep the child out of school and away from siblings.
Most children need little medical attention and the best thing is lots of rest and to make sure your child is drinking lots of fluids. If there are sores in the mouth this can be painful so talk to your doctor about over-the-counter pain relievers and mouthwashes or sprays that can numb the pain.