Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) - What You Can Do

Photo Credit: Marc van der Chijs
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a viral disease fairly common in children. Adults are often unaffected due to antibodies created from previous exposure.
 
HFMD can be caused by a number of viruses, most commonly the coxsackie virus.  The virus can be transmitted through nose and throat secretions, the fluid in the blisters of infected persons, and through stool. Eating or drinking contaminated food can also transmit HFMD.
 
Children diagnosed with HFMD should not go to school for at least one week, or until all blisters have healed.
 
Symptoms
 
Symptoms of the virus will usually appear 3 – 6 days after transmission of the virus.  Typical symptoms of HFMD are:
 
  1. Fever for two to four days with flu-like symptoms.
  2. Lack of appetite.
  3. Blisters on the tongue, gum, and the inside of the cheeks.
  4. Blisters on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and buttocks.
  5. Blisters may break and become ulcers.
 
In rare cases HFMD can lead to meningitis, encephalitis, paralysis, myocarditis, and death.
 
Treatment & Personal Prevention
 
There are no specific medications for HFMD, and any treatment provided is for managing symptoms such as fever and pain. 
 
To help prevent contraction and spreading of the virus, adults should follow the following guidelines:
 
  1. Wash your hands frequently.
  2. Wash your hands after wiping the noses or mouths of children.
  3. Do not share utensils with those infected.
  4. Avoid close contact with those you know are infected.
 
Working with Children
 
For caregivers, cooks and staff working with children, the following measures should be followed:
 
  • Keep nails short and avoid wearing rings and/or bracelets while working.
  • Wash hands with soap:
    • Before eating
    • After using the restroom
    • After touching children’s stool, nasal discharge, or saliva
  • Undergo annual medical check-ups.
 
Teachers and caregivers should observe all students. If blisters are found on their tongues, gums, palms of their hands, soles of their feet, or buttocks, immediately notify their parents and advise them to take their children to see the doctor.
 
Cleaning Children’s Areas
 
Especially in places such as schools, day care facilities and nurseries, the following measures should be followed to help prevent the spread of the virus:
 
Utensils
  • Utensils that come in direct contact with the mouth should be stored separately, such as glasses, straws, bottles, spoons and bowls.
  • Utensils should be stored in places where they can quickly dry, and away from exposure from children when not in use.
 
Cleaning
  • Floors should be cleaned with bleach diluted in water (approximately 20 cc of bleach to every liter of water). The floor should be then rinsed again with clean water.
  • Toys and equipment should be cleaned daily with non-toxic disinfectant and water.
  • Door knobs and banisters should be cleaned regularly.
  • In places where food is cooked and served, the ceilings as well as the floors should be cleaned daily.
  • If there is a swimming pool, it should be regularly cleaned with the proper amount of chlorine added to disinfect the water.
 
Air Circulation and Quality
  • Windows should be opened in air-conditioned rooms so the air circulates. 
  • Air-conditioners should be serviced and cleaned every month.
 
Note: This information was compiled by Bumrungrad International Hospital, Infection Control Department from materials of the Communicable Disease Control Division, Department of Health B.M.A.
Posted by Scott Minteer
August 17, 2012