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Common Cause of Foot and Mouth Disease in Children

Hand, foot and mouth disease, also known as foot and mouth disease (FMD), is a viral infection commonly noted in children. However, it is not the same as that seen in animals such as cattle. Most children would have been affected by this disease by the time they reach adulthood.

Who is affected?

Foot and mouth disease is commonly noted in children below 10 years; it may be noted in older children too.

Foot and mouth disease

Children need care at an early stage of their life cycle.

How is foot and mouth disease in children caused?

The common cause for this disease in children is a virus which belongs to a family known as coxsackie. This disease is highly contagious and spreads through touch.

How does it spread?

FMD in children spreads through touch. The viral infection commonly results in the formation of blisters in the nose and mouth. The fluid from these blisters as well as that from the mouth, nose and chest can also carry the virus in infected children. The infection can spread when an infected child sneezes or coughs. It also spreads through faeces where the viruses can remain active for weeks.

What are the symptoms of foot and mouth disease in children?

The infection initially results in the formation of blisters which are commonly noted on the gums, inner cheek, and sides of the tongue. They may also be noted on the hands (palm) and feet (sole). In babies, it may be noted in the nappy region. The blisters may last for about seven to 10 days.

Low grade fever, sore throat, irritability, lack of appetite and tiredness are commonly noted in affected children.

How is it treated?

There is no treatment for foot and mouth disease in children. Antibiotics don’t work as the condition is caused by a virus. The condition resolves itself within a few days. The affected child should be encouraged to drink fluids frequently to maintain hydration. Blisters should be allowed to dry naturally. Immediate medical advice must be sought if the child develops stiff neck, headache or back pain.

How can it be prevented?

The best protection is good hygiene. There are several simple hygiene steps which can be followed to prevent the spread of FMD in children. Some of these include:

  • Washing hands with soap and water before eating, after visiting the toilet, after wiping nose and after changing nappies
  • Avoiding the sharing of cups and utensils, brushes, towels and clothing
  • Washing contaminated toys and soiled clothes
  • Covering the mouth with a tissue while sneezing or coughing

Foot and mouth disease in children is usually a mild infection which resolves by itself. However, one needs to visit the doctor in case of a severe infection. Personal hygiene can help prevent the spread of this condition.

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