8 Jun 2015

Dealing With Hand Foot & Mouth Disease

I've noticed a recent epidemic circulating around Sydney, especially amongst kids in childcare. I'm talking about Hand Foot and Mouth (HFM) Disease. My boys recently had it. 

What is HFM? Its caused by a virus. It appears on the hands and feed, in the mouth and also often in the "nappy" area. It's usually a mild disease that lasts between seven to ten days. It's usually spread by catching from someone who already has the disease or objects that may had contact with the virus.

Concern parents are posting comments, stories and photos on some of the mummy groups I check on social media. And what I found interesting is there isn't a lot of information online. Ok let me re phrase that, there isn't a lot of unrepeated and updated information available online. I actually found forums or comments within articles more useful, from people who have experienced HFM in their home first hand. 

Here's a list of information or answers I gained through our personal experience: 
  • HFM doesn't appear instantly, your child could be carrying the virus for days before they should any signs of sickness. We assume Eli caught it from childcare, but no one came forward to report their child had it. I did, its the right thing to do. It's also very contagious so we kept Eli away from childcare for a week and a half, but of course little bro caught it too. Adults aren't completely safe either as they can also catch HFM.
  • You will read everywhere there is no treatment for HFM. Your child (and everyone who gets it) will just have to ride it out, let the virus take its course. That's great, but I struggled to find information on what to do and how to treat the skin when one gets with HFM. I read in forums people would bath in a coal tar solution to help with severe eczema or psoriasis, and found effective treating skin itchiness with HFM. So every night I bathed the boys separately in this solution. I used EGO Pinetarsol, (but there are many similar products available at all chemists) and I found it helped dry the blisters quicker and helped relive the itchiness. 
  • HMF causes the affected skin areas to blister, which eventually weeps. I didn't know whether I should continue to moisturise my children's skin - they do suffer from eczema, so they're always lathered in moisturiser. I found if we didn't moisturise their skin, it would become dry and crack. Eli complained of pain around joints where his skin was cracked the most. We moisturised more frequently and it helped ease the pain and discomfort. We also noticed moisturising helped minimise scaring after they got over HFM. 
  • A few weeks later I noticed Eli was picking at his nail. I looked to discover his whole nail had come off the base of his cuticle. It was like he broke his nail. I had a look at his other nails across both hands, and most were showing the same symptoms as the broken nail. A thick white line across the nail and part of the nail was detached from the cuticle. I started freaking out wondering if its his poor diet. I began to research online and typed in "Nails falling off my toddler" and the first few links were forums on people sharing their own experiences, and we all had a common denominator to our stories - HFM. Some said their child's nails fell off several weeks after they had HFM, some said even the toe nails was affected and some said not ever nail fell off. Some said a new nail was already growing underneath the old nail, some said it was raw skin. All said their child didn't show signs that they were experiencing pain, and some adults said they too experienced it, if they managed to catch HFM. Oddly enough I found no medical links to explain why this happens, although someone posted their doctor explained it as, because the virus affects the hand and foot, these areas experience trauma so the nails can be impacted causing it to fall off, however it grows back. 
  • Besides the visable signs the boys didn't seemed to be bothered by HFM. Eli didn't have an appetite first day but after that he was fine. The nails situation didn't seem to hurt Eli either, they eventually fell off over a slow period of time. 
So how do you prevent you or your child from getting it. Unfortunately there's no vaccine for it, all you can do is minimise the risk by being mindful of everyone's hygiene practices. Keeping your child or you in quarantine if someone in your household does catch it. Good luck to all the parents dealing with HFM. 

Has your child had HFM recently, what information would you share to parents going through it now?

Linking up with Jess
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