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Outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease have been reported all over the UK. While this childhood illness sounds scary, it normally goes by itself within a week or two and it’s extremely common during autumn. Worried about your child catching it? Express.co.uk reveals the signs and symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease and how YOU can avoid catching it.
Hand, foot and mouth disease, also known as enteroviral vesicular stomatitis, is a viral infection that mostly impacts young children under the age of five.
Even though it is technically a ‘disease’, hand foot and mouth disease is common, mild and short-lived most of the time.
The disease is caused by an enterovirus infection such as the Coxsackievirus A16, Enterovirus 71 or Echovirus.
Hand, foot and mouth is on the rise in primary schools at the moment, as expected for the late autumn months.
As you’ve probably guessed, the disease causes signs in the hands, feet and mouth, but that’s not all you need to look out for.
The first signs of hand, foot and mouth disease can be:
- a sore throat
- a high temperature
- not wanting to eat
After a few days mouth ulcers will pop up and a rash will appear on the hands and feet (and sometimes even on the thighs and bottom).
The disease is passed on through coughs, sneezes, poo and the fluid in infected blisters.
You can start spreading hand, foot and mouth from a few days before you’ve even had any symptoms, so it is extremely infectious.
However, the NHS site points out that you’re most likely to spread the virus to others in the first five days after symptoms start.
Can you get Hand, foot and mouth disease twice?
It is possible to get hand, foot and mouth disease more than once.
Hand, foot and mouth is caused by a range of different viruses, just like the cold and flu (which you can catch year after year).
Your body will become immune to one viral infection that caused the disease, but you can still catch a different virus that causes hand, foot and mouth.
How to avoid catching hand, foot and mouth disease
It’s very difficult to catch hand foot and mouth disease, as it is mostly spread and caught by children and toddlers.
It’s hard to stop children from sharing toys, putting toys in their mouths and playing closely with friends, especially if you don’t know that someone has the disease.
However, the NHS site recommends doing the following to prevent the disease from spreading (even if you’re not infected):
- wash your hands often with soap and water – and children’s hands too
- use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
- bin used tissues as quickly as possible
- do not share towels or household items like cups or cutlery
- wash soiled bedding and clothing on a hot wash
There’s no specific treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease, but it’s important to keep infected people at home and away from nursery, school or work.
Frequent hand-washing and avoiding close contact with people who are infected with hand-foot-and-mouth disease may help reduce your child’s risk of infection.
The Mayo Clinic added: “You cannot take antibiotics or medicines to cure hand, foot and mouth disease – it usually gets better on its own in seven to 10 days.”
The site recommends trying the following to treat hand, foot and mouth:
drink fluids to prevent dehydration – avoid acidic drinks, such as fruit juice
eat soft foods like yoghurt – avoid hot and spicy foods
take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help ease a sore mouth or throat
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