Welcome back to our childhood illness spotlight!
This month we want to talk about an illness that isn’t discussed as frequently as some of our previous topics. It is however still quite common so worthwhile knowing what it is, what it looks like and how to treat it.
What Is Hand, Foot And Mouth?
Hand, foot and mouth is a very common childhood illness that affects around 1 in 3 children in the UK under 10 years old. It’s not to be confused with foot and mouth disease which is an infection that affects cloven-hooved animals and humans and the last breakout was in 2001.
Hand, foot and mouth is a very different illness and not serious. It can however affect adults as well as children, so you may need to take precautions to make sure you don’t spread it.
What Are The Symptoms?
The very first signs that your child has hand, foot and mouth can be:
- A sore throat
- A high temperature
- Not wanting to eat anything
However, at this stage you shouldn’t assume it is hand, foot and mouth, as there are many other illnesses that have these symptoms. If after a few days you start to see the following:
- Ulcers appearing in the mouth and on the tongue. These can be painful, and mean your child doesn’t want to eat or drink.
- Red spots on the hands and feet. These will develop into blisters with a grey centre, and can be quite painful
Then your child probably has hand, foot and mouth. You should get them officially diagnosed and start treatment. The symptoms will be the same for adults, but are usually more painful.
How Is It Diagnosed?
Your child will usually be diagnosed through a visual examination and a doctor will be able to confirm this for you, but there is a limit to what they can do to treat it. Your best bet is actually to go to your pharmacist, as they can give you advice about treatments.
However, as with all illnesses, you should see a GP if things don’t get better. In the case of hand, foot and mouth, that means:
- Symptoms don’t improve after 7-10 days
- Your child has a very high temperature, feels hot and shivery
- Your child is dehydrated, and they aren’t weeing as often as usual
- You’re worried about your child’s symptoms
- You are pregnant and you or your child has hand, foot and mouth
How Is Hand, Foot And Mouth Treated?
Unfortunately, hand, foot and mouth is one of those illnesses that just has to run its course. It can’t be treated with antibiotics or other medicines. You just have to wait the 7-10 days it takes to work its way through the system. There are some things you can do to help which will make your child more comfortable.
- Make sure they drink plenty of fluids, but avoid fruit juices or anything acidic, as these will cause irritation. They might prefer to drink through a straw, or even on a spoon to make it less painful.
- Serve them soft foods like soup, soft roasted vegetables, jelly or bread. Avoid anything hot or spicy for the same reasons as above.
- Give paracetamol and/or ibuprofen to help with the fever and to ease the sore mouth and throat.
- Speak to your pharmacist. They might be able to recommend mouth ulcer gels, sprays and mouthwashes to relive the pain.
You also need to make sure you’re not spreading it while your child is ill. Hand, foot and mouth disease is easily passed on to other people. It can be spread with coughs, sneezes and poo and your child will be infectious from a few days before they have any symptoms, right up until 5 days after the symptoms start. So, make sure your child is washing their hands often, using tissues when they cough or sneeze and don’t share any household items like cups or cutlery.
Keep them away from school or nursery while they are feeling unwell. Once the symptoms have been present for 5 days, it is safe to send them back if they are feeling well enough– you don’t have to wait for the blisters to heal.
That’s a lot to remember, so if you do need to give your child medicine while they’re unwell why don’t you make life a little easier for yourself and use the Medi-Redi storage timer. You can keep all your medicines and spoons together in one place and it will clearly tell you when it is safe to give more medicine. One less thing to worry so you can spend your time giving your little one lots of TLC instead!
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