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Hand foot and mouth disease: How to spot and treat the symptoms

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Hand foot and mouth disease
Hand foot and mouth disease in children is very common and incredibly contagious.

Although it does look rather nasty, it will usually clear up on its own after about 10 days and you can usually just look after your child yourself at home.

Hand foot and mouth disease is mostly common in children under 10 years old. Don't confuse hand foot and mouth disease with 'foot and mouth' as this is an infection that affects livestock animals like cattle, sheep and pigs.



What are the symptoms of hand foot and mouth?

A non-itchy rash on your child's hands and feet (which may turn into painful blisters) and mouth ulcers, often accompanied by a moderate fever (38-39). Your little one could also have cold-like symptoms including a cough and loss of appetite.

What causes hand foot and mouth?

Hand foot and mouth disease is an incredibly contagious virus. Usually the coxsackie A virus, sometimes the enterovirus 71 or other types of coxsackie viruses.

How is hand foot and mouth spread?

A child is most contagious just before their symptoms appear up until just after they're feeling better. It can be spread by coughs and sneezes in droplets in the air or on surfaces touched by an infected child. The virus can live for up to four weeks in the stools of a child with hand foot and mouth, so making sure your little one washes their hands after going to the loo is really important!

What should I do if my child gets hand foot and mouth disease?

Keep them away from other children wherever possible. Lots of nurseries and some schools will refuse entry to children with hand foot and mouth until the rash has completely gone. Children can remain infectious for about a week after the symptoms first begin. The blisters may last longer, but at this stage they should no longer be contagious.



What is the treatment for hand foot and mouth?

Hand foot and mouth disease clears up on its own, but it's worth getting a soothing gel or powder from the chemist to help ease the pain of the mouth ulcers and Calpol to help keep their temperature down. You can also gargle with salt water to cleanse their mouth ulcers and relieve some of the discomfort, but this may not be recommended for small children in case they swallow it.

It's important to make sure your child doesn't get dehydrated if they have hand foot and mouth disease. Children can often stop eating and drinking because their mouths are so sore. If you think this is happening, go to your GP straight away.

How to soothe a hand, food and mouth rash

One of the most painful parts of having hand foot and mouth is the rash and with younger children, it can be hard to watch them suffer if they don't understand what's happening. There are some home remedies you can knock up to help soothe the rash.

  • Sucking on something cold like an ice lolly, ice chips or ice cream can relieve the sores in your child's mouth
  • If your child can rinse without swallowing, warm, salt water will soothe mouth ulcers and keep them clean. You can do this as many times a day as you see helpfulTry running a bath with Epsom salts and lavender oil. Epsom salts are known for flushing out toxins and lavender oil has healing qualitiesCoconut oil is anti-viral, you can rub this directly onto a rash or pop a scoop of it into a bath to soothe their skinElderberry syrup is known for being a great home remedy for fighting infection. It's useful to just give your little one a dose of this in flu season, and especially when they have an infection like this.

    GoodtoKnow mum Clair Heath says: 'When my youngest had it in the summer I just gave her ice poles to help with her mouth'

    How long does hand foot and mouth last for?

    Lots of nurseries and some schools will refuse entry to children with hand foot and mouth until the rash has completely gone. Children can remain infectious for about a week after the symptoms first begin. The blisters may last longer, but at this stage they should no longer be contagious.



    Should I take my child to the doctor if they get hand foot and mouth?

    If your child isn't drinking enough and you're worried about them being dehydrated, or the symptoms go on for longer than a week, so and see your GP.

    Can hand foot and mouth disease be prevented?

    As it's so contagious, it's difficult to stop your kids catching hand foot and mouth disease. Avoiding infected children and good personal hygiene are the best way, but no guarantee.

    Continued below...


    Is it the same as foot and mouth disease?

    No, it's totally different. Foot and mouth disease affects cattle, not people and you cannot catch hand foot and mouth disease from an animal with foot and mouth disease.

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