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The hand, foot and mouth disease that shook Delhi

The hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) made headlines last week when eight cases prompted a leading private school to shut down its nursery section. Sidhartha Dutta reports.

health and fitness Updated: Sep 30, 2013 02:46 IST
Sidhartha Dutta

The hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) made headlines last week when eight cases prompted a leading private school to shut down its nursery section.

It is an infection, yes, and it looks scary because of the blisters that appear on the mouth, hands and feet, but it’s not a serious disease. It’s just another viral infection that children get and recover from within a week.

“The rashes make it look like chicken-pox or measles, but this is a milder infection,” said Dr Parvinder Singh Narang, senior consultant, department of paediatrics, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh. “HFMD causes symptoms of pain, irritation and fever but the child recovers in five-seven days, unlike in measles where rashes appear all over the body and the disease lasts for two weeks or more,” he added.

HFMD is an enteroviral disease caused by the virus named coxsackie virus A16. It usually infects babies and children less than five years old and it leads to ulcers in the mouth and rashes on the palm and feet. The disease generally occurs during monsoon and the post-monsoon season as a person gets prone to infection with the change in temperature. In a few cases, there also could be rashes on the rest of the body and on the buttocks.

“It takes three to six days for the child to develop symptoms. It is an airborne disease and the infection can spread through close contacts with faeces and toys. It can also spread through kissing and sharing common swimming pools,” said Dr Dhiren Gupta, senior consultant, department of paediatrics, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

“To prevent spread of the infection the child should be kept at home and avoid public places. The treatment is symptomatic and the child should be given lots of fluids. Painkillers such as aspirin must be avoided because in viral infections these could lead to complications. The virus can transmit to another person within one-three weeks of the infection,” the doctor. Sir Ganga Ram gets six-seven such cases in the past 15 days, he said.

Among the preventive measures, chlorination of water, washing of hands and disinfection of toys are advised apart from avoiding sharing of utensils (while eating or drinking) and kissing.

According to doctors, the disease occurs in a person once in a lifetime. An adult can also have the disease but usually one catches in young age. Anya Aggarwal, around two years old, who was affected by the disease, had blisters on her hand and pain on the tongue. “She could not eat properly and she was dribbling. Her temperature was ranging between 100 and 101 degrees Farenheit and she was a bit lethargic,” said her mother Kritika Aggarwal, a housewife.

“We didn’t bother when she had fever in the initial days but once she started developing blisters, we were worried and consulted a paediatrician. She showed signs of improvement within 2-3 days of treatment. It took around 10 days for the rashes to disappear,” she added.

“Paracetamol is given to contain fever and calamine lotion is usually applied to heal the rashes on the body. The rashes are non-purpuric (not indicative of an underlying cause of bleeding) vesicles, which are painful, but can settle down in few days,” said Dr Narang.

“There are no restrictions on food and the child must be given something cold to drink (yoghurt, milk shake or ice cream) to provide soothing relief to their mouth.”