Even though the season for hand, foot and mouth disease has officially ended up north, several pre-schoolers in Cayman have recently contracted the contagious virus.
Dr. Marilyn McIntyre, head of paediatrics at Cayman Islands Hospital, advises parents to remain vigilant for symptoms of the disease.
‘We don’t usually have as many cases as we’ve had this year. Over the last two weeks, I’ve seen somewhere between five and 10 children with Coxsackie virus, three of whom had the definite lesions of hand, foot and mouth disease.’ Dr. McIntyre said.
She described the symptoms of the disease, which is caused by the Coxsackie virus.
‘It occurs most commonly in younger children up to five years of age. It presents with small red spots on the palms and soles, and between the fingers and toes. A similar rash may appear on the buttocks.
‘There may be tiny blisters in the mouth and on the soles and palms. The mouth is usually sore. The child may have a low grade temperature which may last for four to five days. The rash may last for 10 to 12 days,’ she said.
To treat the disease, the doctor recommends controlling the fever with paracetamol.
‘Give a soft diet with plenty of clear fluids. Avoid acidic fruit juices, hot or spicy foods, and foods which require a lot of chewing
‘Cold drinks, popsicles and ice cream are soothing and therefore are well tolerated,’ she said.
Dr. McIntyre stressed that this disease has no relationship at all to foot and mouth disease in cattle.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is spread by faecal contamination and oral and respiratory secretions, she explained.
‘It is highly contagious and affected patients are contagious before the onset of symptoms, making the spread very difficult to control,’ Dr. McIntyre said.
She outlined the basic preventative measures people can take to avoid infection.
‘People should pay strict attention to frequent hand washing, especially after changing diapers, as well as maintain good personal hygiene. Avoidance of close contact and kissing are important preventive measures,’ she said.
The disease is not usually serious, however.
‘Since the disease is relatively harmless – the most common complication being dehydration from lack of fluids – children do not need to be isolated and can return to school once the fever has subsided,’ Dr. McIntyre said.
Parents need to be aware of the more serious symptoms to watch out for which would require a doctor’s care, she added.
‘Take your child to the doctor if he/she is not drinking or does not pass urine in eight hours; becomes very drowsy and is difficult to wake up; has difficulty breathing; develops neck stiffness and the fever persists more than four days,’ she said.