Monday, November 26, 2007

Hand, foot and mouth disease

I attend a music program with my children on a Wednesday and just the other week one of the mums was telling me that her two boys had had ‘hand, foot and mouth disease’ to which I immediately replied that I’d never heard of anyone getting that and wasn’t it one of those diseases that had been eradicated years ago (excuse my ignorance).
She proceeded to briefly explain what it was and that it had been going around but that her boys weren’t contagious anymore etc and then we began talking about something else (as you do). I am the queen of changing topics frequently and never fully finishing any conversation especially when the children are interrupting frequently.
Anyway I had put the conversation out of my mind until the following week. On the Tuesday night my two-year-old felt very hot as I was putting him to bed and I discovered that he had a temperature of 39.7 degrees. Thinking that it was probably just one of those 24 hour high temperature things that kids just seem to get that never develop into anything, I gave him some Panadol and put him to bed. After an hour he got back up, quite miserable and he was putting his hands near his mouth and wouldn’t take his dummy (always a sign that he genuinely feels sick!!) making me think that maybe he was going to vomit.
After a restless night and many tears, I woke up to my one-year-old daughter also having a very high temperature and feeling grizzly and clinging to me. It was a very long day of both children needing a lot of attention, cuddles and regular Panadol. My son basically stayed in his bed and I put the television in there so he could watch dvds and sleep and my daughter just stayed in my arms whimpering, dozing on my lap or having frequent naps throughout the day.
By the Thursday, I started to notice a bit of a rash on my son’s mouth which I would usually have just passed off as a bit of a “pash rash” from sucking his dummy but because I knew he hadn’t had his dummy, it struck me as being odd.
I called a girlfriend whose two-year-old daughter had also had a high temperature a few days earlier to see how she was feeling and ask how long she’d been unwell for etc. After chatting with my friend though, and thinking it through a bit more, it suddenly occurred to me that it might be this ‘hand and mouth’ thing. I racked my brain trying to remember what this woman at Music had described to me and after further discussion with my friend (who is also a nurse) I decided to go and get some information off the Internet to see if I could make a diagnosis.
After searching the Internet I was almost certain of what it was and I was also noticing that their temps have gone down but that my sons mouth now had blistery sore things all around it. I grabbed a torch and looked in his mouth only to be confronted by a mouth full of blistery/ ulcer looking sores. I couldn’t see any spots on his hands or feet though. Unfortunately I was unable to get a glimpse in my daughter’s mouth, but upon inspection of her body I did observe red spots on her tongue. Her ankles, wrists and vagina also had tiny pinprick spots.
I booked a doctors appointment, which resulted in a confirmation of what I had been thinking. There is not much to do with this illness besides treating the pain with Panadol and Nurofen. My daughter was drooling a lot, which was explained by severe blisters in her mouth making it really painful for her to swallow.
The good news is that by Sunday (5 days since the first sign of sickness) the children were feeling a lot better, eating again and sleeping through the night.
I am going to remain at home for the remainder of this week, incubating them from other children e.g. mother’s group so that no one else gets it, but I imagine that by tomorrow night and Wednesday they will be feeling almost 100%.
Below is some information that I found on-line. I hope it helps if you’re in a similar situation to me or just to keep in mind for future reference.

WHAT IS HAND, FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is generally a mild illness caused by viruses called coxsackievirus or enterovirus. It is not a serious illness and has nothing to do with the animal disease called foot and mouth disease. It mainly occurs in children under 10 years of age but can also occur in older children and adults.
HOW CAN IT AFFECT YOU?
Coxsackievirus or enterovirus infection may cause no symptoms at all or only very mild symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they include blisters that start as small red dots, which later become ulcers. Blisters appear inside the cheeks, gums, and on the sides of the tongue, as well as on the hands and feet. In infants, sometimes blisters can be seen in the nappy area. Blisters usually last for seven to 10 days. Children can sometimes have a low fever, sore throat, tiredness, feel off colour and may not eat for a day or two. Very rarely, the coxsackieviruses can cause other illnesses that affect the heart, brain, or lining of the brain (meningitis), lungs, or eyes.
HOW COMMON IS IT?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common disease and outbreaks may occur among groups of children; for example, in child care centres.
HOW IS THE INFECTION SPREAD?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is usually spread by person to- person contact. The virus is spread from the faeces of an infected person to the mouth of the next person by contaminated hands. It is also spread by secretions from the mouth or respiratory system, and by direct contact with the fluid in blisters. It usually takes between three and five days after contact with an infected person before blisters appear. As long as there is fluid in the blisters, they remain infectious. The virus can remain in faeces for several weeks.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
Usually no treatment is needed. Paracetamol will relieve fever and discomfort. Do not give children aspirin. If the headache is severe, or if fever persists, consult a doctor.
HOW CAN IT BE PREVENTED?
• Good hygiene is the best protection: wash hands with soap and water after going to the toilet, before eating, after wiping noses, and after changing nappies or soiled clothing.
• Avoid sharing cups, eating utensils, items of personal hygiene (for example: towels, washers and toothbrushes), and clothing (especially shoes and socks).
• Thoroughly wash any soiled clothing.
• Ensure the mouth and nose are covered when coughing and sneezing. Wipe the nose and mouth with tissues, dispose of used tissues and then wash your hands.
HOW CAN SPREAD OF THE DISEASE BE CONTROLLED?
Children with hand, foot and mouth disease should be excluded from school or childcare facilities until their blisters have dried. The illness should be reported to the director of the childcare centre or school principal.

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