The winter illness season has arrived, and with it, a rise in cases of hand, foot and mouth disease. Health professionals have warned of outbreaks in Somerset, Gloucester, Surrey and Manchester.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral infection that’s common in children under the age of 10, but can also affect adults. It’s got nothing to do with bovine foot and mouth disease, which affects cattle.
Reports first popped up this year of the illness affecting families holidaying in Mallorca during September, but increasing numbers of cases have since been reported across the UK in the past month.
A rash could be an indicator of hand, foot and mouth. Use our What rash is this? guide to quickly identify a possible cause.
What are the signs and symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease?
The first signs of hand, foot and mouth disease are:
- Sore throat
- High temperature above 38°C
- Lack of appetite.
After a few days, your child may then develop:
- Mouth ulcers
- Rash on their hands, feet and legs made up red spots
The rash may develop into painful blisters, which take on a white/grey appearance, and may be itchy.
If your child has a temperature, be sure to use a thermometer that’s simple and convenient to use.
Can you treat hand, foot and mouth disease?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a virus, not a bacterial infection, which means you can’t treat it with antibiotics. If you’re concerned about your child, you can see your GP to get an official diagnosis, but the doctor will advise plenty of rest and rehydration.
If your baby or child seems in pain from the sore throat, blisters and ulcers that can develop, you can give them infant paracetamol or ibuprofen.
The NHS recommends that you avoid acidic drinks, such as fruit juice, as these may irritate any mouth ulcers your child has.
The infection should clear up within seven to 10 days.
Hand, foot and mouth is very contagious, and is spread through close personal contact, touching contaminated surfaces and breathing in droplets from the air when someone coughs or sneezes.
Keep your baby or child at home and away from nursery or school while they feel unwell, and make sure you practice good hygiene by washing your hands regularly to reduce the chances of the illness spreading.
If you’re worried that your baby or child has a temperature, read our guide to taking your child’s temperature – what’s safe and what’s not? It includes tips on how to take a temperature accurately.