What on earth is this!?’ If you haven?t come across it before, hand, foot and mouth disease can look very worrying. The illness is a mild viral infection caused by one of the coxsackie viruses and is highly contagious, mostly for children under the age of 10. It’s almost too easy to catch!
Through coughing, sneezing, skin to skin or contact with bodily fluids it can be passed very quickly and (similar to chicken pox) your little one could have the virus for a few days before the sores appear, making it difficult for you to know why they have been cranky and weepy for a day or two. Once the sores do appear it is easy enough to spot the blister- like spots that develop on your little ones hands, feet and in their mouths. Sometimes they will spread up the back of their legs to their bottom as well. They are likely, unfortunately, to cause the child discomfort and if they have spread to their mouth, may cause them difficulty when eating.
The Best Treatment
As this is a viral infection, there isn’t much you can do except keep your little one hydrated and give them some baby paracetamol for the pain. If they are refusing to eat or refusing their milk, try to keep them drinking water. They may develop a temperature over the coming days and if this is the case, again, give them plenty of fluids and baby paracetamol. You can put baby teething gel in their mouth to soothe their sores and this might give them enough relief to take some solids.
When to Contact a Doctor
Unfortunately, due to the fact that this is a viral infection, there is nothing your GP can do except confirm that it is hand, foot and mouth disease and possibly give you some antibacterial cream if your little one’s blisters have become infected. Other than that, unless you are worried about your baby’s temperature, there is no point making trips to the GP as they will feel as helpless to your little one as you. They will be able to offer advice, but no cure.
How to Avoid It
You can’t. Plain and simple. As long as your baby is kept clean, and their hands are washed regularly you are doing all you can to avoid it. If it is passing around the babies in your weekly play group or your little ones nursery, the likelihood is that they will catch it. It may knock you out of routine for a few days but after a week your baby should be showing signs of improvement. If you know of any babies, toddlers or children who have the infection, try to avoid them, although they may have passed the infection on before their parents were even aware they had it.
No matter what we do, babies will catch a virus from time to time. The majority of these are mild and, as in this case, shouldn’t cause any further illness. Just watch out for your little ones blisters becoming infected and make sure they are kept hydrated and their temperature is steady. Lots of cuddles, and soon you can tick one more childhood illness of that list!