Hand foot and mouth disease alert - county health chiefs warn parents about how to protect their children

Children need to learn about hand hygiene to ward off germs

Children need to learn about hand hygiene to ward off germs - Credit: Archant

County health chiefs have issued detailed advice to parents, nurseries and schools about steps they can take to reduce the risk of hand, foot and mouth disease in children.

Hand, foot and mouth disease – also known as HFMD - is a mild viral infection that can affect young children. The disease isn’t usually serious, and goes away without treatment after a few days, but it can be unpleasant, particularly in younger children.

Typical symptoms of HFMD include cold-like symptoms, such as loss of appetite, cough and a moderately high temperature of around 38-39°C (100.4-102.2°F), a non-itchy red rash made up of spots or small blisters, which usually develop on the hands and feet (also sometimes on the knees, elbows, groin and buttocks) and painful mouth ulcers

Councillor Teresa Heritage, Herts County Council’s cabinet member for public health, said: “HFMD is common in children and is caused by a viral infection, which means it cannot be treated with antibiotics or antiviral medication.

“If a parent is concerned that their child may have HFMD, they should monitor them carefully and encourage them to rest.

“Swallowing may be uncomfortable, so provide soft food, such as mashed potatoes and soup, and make sure they drink plenty of water or milk, avoiding acidic drinks like cola or orange juice.

“Medication, such as child safe ibuprofen or paracetamol (not aspirin), can help ease symptoms too.”

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There are simple steps that parents, nurseries and schools can take to reduce the risk of HFMD, including:

- washing hands before meals, after going to the toilet or handling nappies etc, and if getting discharge on them while coughing or sneezing

- covering the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and throwing away the tissue

- cleaning children’s toys frequently with diluted household bleach then wiping or rinsing them with clean water

- keeping children who are ill away from school and other overcrowded places until their fever and rash have subsided and scabs have dried. Stay in touch with the school.

Anyone concerned about a baby should visit www.babycentre.co.uk/a1614/hand-foot-and-mouth-disease or speak to their pharmacist. HFMD very rarely causes problems during pregnancy, but pregnant women should seek advice if they develop any type of rash during pregnancy or think they might have HFMD.

A useful guide for parents can be found at www.nhs.uk/conditions/Hand-foot-and-mouth-disease

If you are still concerned, call 111. If your child isn’t drinking any fluid or their symptoms last longer than seven days you should speak to your GP.