Virtually everyone has to deal with at least some viruses during their lifetime. These microscopic organisms can cause a variety of illnesses, ranging from colds to food poisoning to influenza. Some viruses, however, are less well known and common than others. While hand, foot and mouth disease isn’t an especially well known ailment, it can be quite distressing for those unlucky enough to contract it.
Blisters, Rashes and Fever
The usual culprit behind hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a virus known as coxsackievirus A16, though other viruses have been known to cause this condition. The groups most vulnerable to HFMD are infants and children under the age of five. HFMD can also develop in older children and adults, but this is a less common occurrence. Patients usually contract this disease during the summer months or in early autumn.
As its name would indicate, HFMD causes many problems throughout the body. The first signs of trouble are fever, diminished appetite and a general feeling of being unwell. These symptoms are followed by the appearance of sores, which begin to form in the mouth a day or two after the fever hits. The sores caused by HFMD usually blister, and frequently turn into ulcers.
Many patients also experience rashes on their hands and feet, specifically on the palms and soles. Consisting of red blisters or reddish bumps, such rashes can also form on the knees, buttocks, elbows and genital region. Other symptoms associated with hand, foot and mouth disease include sore throat, muscle aches and irritability.
Routes of Transmission
Since HFMD-causing viruses can be found in an infected person’s saliva, mucus, blister fluid and fecal matter, there are multiple ways in which this disease can be spread. A person can contract HFMD by coming into contact with infected people, objects, surfaces or feces. In addition, sneezes or coughs can allow the illness to spread through the air. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people with HFMD are at their most contagious during their first seven days of illness. Some patients may still remain contagious for days or even weeks after their symptoms initially develop.
HFMD is often found lurking in child-care facilities. In addition to undergoing potty training, children in these environments have their diapers changed frequently. Consequentially, the virus can wind up on objects or surfaces used by small children, who have a tendency to put their hands in their mouths.
Preventing the Spread of HFMD
Practicing common-sense hygiene is an effective method for eliminate harmful microbes, including the viruses responsible for HFMD. The CDC encourages regular hand washing, particularly after using the bathroom or changing a diaper. Items and surfaces that are frequently touched should be thoroughly cleaned on regular basis, since they can act as breeding grounds for germs.
Cups or eating utensils used by those with HFMD should not be shared with others. Close personal contact, such as hugging and kissing, can also facilitate the spread of this disease.
Hand, foot and mouth disease usually goes away on its own after seven to ten days. Though there are no medications specifically designed to treat HFMD, its symptoms can be addressed with over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen (it is important to remember that children should never be given aspirin). In addition, mouth pain caused by sores can be treated with sprays and mouthwashes. Finally, those with HFMD should consume plenty of fluids in order to keep hydrated.