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Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD): How to keep children safe

Delhi-NCR region and some schools have reported increase in the cases of HFMD in children this year. It is a common childhood illness caused by a virus.

Delhi-NCR region and some schools have reported increase in the cases of HFMD in children this year. It is a common childhood illness caused by a virus. It is spread through person-to-person contact through close contact with fluids from an infected person. It is quite contagious. It can also spread through touching something with droplets from sneeze/cough etc. Children below five years of age are more vulnerable. Virus can live on surfaces like bathrooms, toys etc. for several days.

Symptoms are flu or fever like – fever, loss of appetite, sore throat and general malaise. Children also get painful mouth sores and skin rash on palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Fluid in the blisters can cause infection.

Doctors have alerted but maintain there is no need to panic, as it is a self-limiting disease. Symptoms usually go away in 5-7 days. Compared to last year, there has been a 4-5 times increase this year and symptoms have also been comparatively more serious.

A variant of the HFMD, tomato flu, has also been detected in India. It was first detected in Kerala and the symptoms are very similar. It is also highly contagious although mostly self-limiting.

There is no specific treatment for HFMD. Over the counter medications can be taken for pain and fever. Hydration must be maintained. For older children lozenges can be used for sore throat. Topical ointments with zinc and petroleum jelly can help heal blisters.

Schools are often the center of these outbreaks. Proper hygiene, promotion of hand washing, frequent cleaning of surfaces and early detection and isolation of infected children are the best precautions. Parents can be informed about the disease, its prevention, and detection so that they are able to get treatment quickly and stop their child from coming to school. Children should b able to return to school after they have been fever free for at least a day and their sores have healed.

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