Hand, foot and mouth disease

1st April 2019

With kids across the western suburbs returning to school this month, it unfortunately coincides with the peak time of year for hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) outbreaks. But if your kids hands and feet become spotty, don’t despair, here’s a few handy tips to guide you!


HFMD is caused by a virus (several different strains of the enterovirus) and causes a rash involving blisters on the hands and feet and in and around the mouth. A nappy rash may also be prominent in younger children.


HFMD usually occurs as small outbreaks in infants and younger children, however cases also occur in adolescents and adults. Outbreaks are most common during summer and early autumn, but can occur during any time of year.


It spreads easily from 1 person to another via contact with fluid from inside the blisters, through nasal and oral secretions and through faeces. It is possible to contract HFMD more than once, but symptoms will usually be less severe with subsequent infections.


Symptoms usually commence 3 – 7 days after becoming infected and last for 7 – 10 days. This may include your child being tired, having a fever and a rash. The actual appearance of the rash is variable, but may occur as flat pink-red patches sometimes with a scale or small grey-white blisters. Ulcers may occur in the mouth, which can be sore and prevent your child from drinking and eating, and risk of dehydration. If your child has a fever and skin rash, review with your GP is advisable to differentiate HFMD from other infections.


Tips to prevent spread of HFMD include washing hands after contact with blisters, assistance with blowing nose, changing nappy or helping with toileting; ensuring your child doesn’t share cups, cutlery, towels, toothbrushes; and keeping your child home from school or kindy until all the blisters have dried up.


HFMD is usually a mild illness that usually gets better on its own. Care at home includes using basic pain-relief if your child is in discomfort (such as paracetamol or ibuprofen) and providing your child with frequent sips of fluid to ensure they remain hydrated.


This article was written by Dr Tom Mildenhall

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