Question:Are there any preventive measures I can take for Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)?
Asked By : Joyce Tan
Words from the Expert:
Recently there was a case of HFMD in my son's childcare centre. I'm a little worried. Are there any preventive measures I can take for my 5-year-old?
Combating HFMD in Singapore Child Care Centres
First of all, it is important to recognise that Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is caused by a group of enteroviruses, most commonly the coxsackie virus which spreads through the faecal-oral route, secretions or saliva. When in doubt, consult a GP clinic near you.
A child with HFMD may have symptoms which include fever, sore throat, mouth ulcers on the inside of the mouth or sides of the tongue, rashes or blisters on the palms of hands, soles of feet and/or buttocks.
However, these symptoms may vary between children and stages of the disease. Then there are some individuals who only have a rash or show no symptoms at all. It takes about three to six days before a child presents these symptoms.
There is no treatment for children with HFMD. Medications may be used to relieve symptoms. Hence the importance of the following preventive measures:
- Parents to be aware of the incidence of HFMD in their children’s schools and to detect early any signs and symptoms
- If there is any suspicion that a child is unwell and may have HFMD, parents can help to prevent the spread by keeping their child at home and away from public places
- Inform their child’s school, kindergarten or childcare centre immediately, so they can monitor other children closely and take additional precautions
- Parents and children have to maintain continuously a high level of hygiene and cleanliness to j ensure that the child does not catch the disease.
In practical terms, it means washing hands often with soap and water or to sanitise the hands especially after changing diapers and to help young children do the same. One can lower the risk of getting infected by:
- Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups and eating utensils with people who have HFMD
- Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
- Regularly disinfecting toys, surfaces and common areas shared with other children
- Looking out for signs and symptoms in other family members
Obviously, we can strengthen our children’s immune system by:
- Eating healthily (ie. balanced diet)
- Having enough rest
- Exercising regularly
- Giving our children vaccinations against a myriad of sicknesses
Before considering a child with HFMD to return to school, it is important for parents to ensure that the child has no fever or blisters on hands and arms, mouth ulcer, blisters on soles of feet, legs and/or buttocks.
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