Hand, foot and mouth disease: Awareness and prevention critical

Hand, foot and mouth disease: Awareness and prevention critical

As the trees begin to change and the leaves being to fall, autumn arrives; however, it does not come alone.

It also brings hand foot and mouth disease, a viral illness that commonly occurs in the early autumn months.  

HFMD usually affects children younger than 5 years old, but it can also occur in adults. The virus is most easily spread through coughing and sneezing, but can also be spread through contact with bodily fluids like mucus, saliva, blister fluid and feces.  

The best way to prevent HFMD is washing your hands with soap and water often and thoroughly.  Regular cleaning and disinfecting of children’s toys and surfaces, like changing tables, will also lower the risk of transmitting HFMD.  

HFMD symptoms usually start with fever, reduced appetite, sore throat and a feeling of being unwell.  One to two days after the fever starts, painful sores can develop in the mouth and a skin rash with red spots may develop on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.  Not everyone will have symptoms.  Some people, especially adults, may show no signs of HFMD, but can still pass the virus on to others.  

There is no specific treatment for HFMD and the illness usually goes away on its own within 2-3 days.  Steps can be taken to relieve the symptoms.  Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be taken to relieve pain and fever. (Aspirin should not be given to a child younger than 18 years.)  Using mouth washes or sprays that numb mouth pain can also help. 

HFMD is highly contagious. If you think your child has HFMD, he should stay home from school or day care until the fever is gone and mouth sores have healed. 

Contact your doctor or nurse if your child is drinking less than usual and hasn’t had a wet diaper for 4-6 hours (for babies and young children) or hasn’t needed to urinate in the past 6-8 hours (for older children.)

You should also contact your doctor or nurse if your child seems to be getting worse or hasn’t recovered after a few days.  For more information,  visit www.cdc.gov or contact Public Health at 801-586-9546.

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