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Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease, caused by coxsakievirus A, is characterised by sores that appear on the hands, feet and in the mouth.

It is most common in young children and can be spread by coughing, sneezing or contact with poo, saliva or fluid from the sores. It is difficult to prevent spreading the disease because children are most contagious a few days before symptoms develop. If your child is infected you should keep them away from nursery or playgroup to minimise the spread of the disease.

The sores are most abundant on the hands, feet and mouth but may spread up the legs and even to the bottom and genitals. Your child may find the blisters quite painful and they may stop eating because of the sores in their mouth. It is common to have a slight fever and sore throat alongside the blisters.

Although your child may be quite unwell, the good news is that hand, foot and mouth disease is not serious. The symptoms should disappear within about five days. There's not much a doctor can do because viruses can't be treated with antibiotics but you may want to see the doctor just to confirm that it is hand, foot and mouth disease. You can give your baby infant paracetamol to treat the fever and relieve pain but this is only suitable for children over three months old.

Baby teething gels may also help to soothe the pain in your baby's mouth. Even though it may hurt to feed, it is important to keep your baby hydrated. Cool liquids are better because warm or hot drinks will worsen the pain.

You can get hand, foot and mouth disease more than once but children under ten years old are most at risk and it is quite rare for adults to suffer from the disease.

September 2012
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