Hand foot mouth disease on the rise in children across Maharashtra

It’s a great irony that hand foot mouth disease causing havoc in rural Maharashtra is largely unnoticed by the health authorities. Also the disease running as an epidemic in Marathwada, Vidarbha and cities like Pune and Mumbai

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Hand Foot Mouth Disease, is not a just a routine illness, in paediatrician’s OPD started coming up since last 6 months with gradually increasing number of cases every day. The disease is a viral self-limiting infection caused by coxsackie and enterovirus.

Symptoms

  • Starts with fever and sore throat.
  • Painful blisters/ulcers appear in throat , on palms and sole.
  • Ulcers in mouth and throat become painful and difficulty in swallowing.
  • Irritability, loss of appetite.

Spread

  • Spread to healthy kids through touch and skin to skin contact.
  • As saliva contains the virus.

Age  

Usually affects children who are less than 5 years of age.

Investigations

Usually no investigations required as the disease can be diagnosed clinically. With the information given even parents can diagnose it although expert consultation is mandatory.

Treatment

Treatment is usually symptomatic with medicines for fever (antipyretic – paracetamol), pain (analgesic – ibuprofen), lot of fluids, soft diet. Occasionally local antibiotic cream for blisters.

What can the parents do to prevent their child from getting hand foot mouth disease?

  • Wash your own and child’s hands very often especially when he is returning home from outdoors and school.
  • Maintain good nutrition.

What can the parents of infected children do?

Consult a paediatrician as soon as they notice ulcers and fever.

Not send the child to school during and after the illness till the rash / blisters fade off.

Give a mild diet and lot of fluids.

Wash hands after handling the child.

Limit contact with siblings and other children.

What is different in this epidemic?

Every epidemic of a disease comes with difference in usual symptoms of the disease. Hand foot mouth disease in this epidemic is unusually coming with blisters on buttocks and also presenting between 5 to 10 years.

Even with this basic information being valuable to alleviate fear of hand foot mouth disease among parents  and for  prevention of the disease, the Public health authorities has largely turned a deaf ear to the disease and health education about it.

The author is an MBBS, MD (Paediatrics) a paediatrician and neonatologist