Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease (HFMD) is an endemic illness that is very common in children and causes painful sores on the mouth, hands, feet and sometimes the buttocks and legs. Here is what you need to know.


What Is HFMD?

HFMD is a viral infection caused by a group of viruses called enteroviruses. It usually takes 3 to 5 days (with a range from 2 days to 2 weeks) for a person to show symptoms of HFMD after being exposed to the virus. Both adults and children can be affected, but young children below 5 years old are more prone to this virus.


HFMD is usually mild and goes away in a week or so. Occasionally, serious complications involving the nervous system and heart can occur. In Singapore, medical practitioners, childcare centres, and kindergartens with HFMD outbreaks must notify the Ministry of Health.


Is It Contagious?


HFMD spreads easily from person to person by direct contact with the nasal discharge, saliva, faeces, and fluids from an infected person. A person infected with HFMD is most contagious during the duration of the illness. Although the virus may continue to persist in the stool for several weeks after infection, the person generally becomes much less contagious when the illness resolves. Nonetheless, good personal and environmental hygiene must continue to be maintained.

What Are The Symptoms?

A child with HFMD may suffer from some of these common signs and symptoms:

- Fever
- Sore throat
- Mouth ulcers on the inside of the mouth or sides of the tongue
- Rash (flat or raised spots) or small blisters on palms of hands, soles of feet, and/or buttocks
- Lethargy
- Poor appetite

However, symptoms may vary between individuals, and at different stages of the disease. E.g. some may only have a rash or some individuals may show no symptoms at all.

Are There Any Treatments Or Cures Available For HFMD?

There is no HFMD vaccine currently available. Doctor’s might prescribe some medications to relief symptoms but there are no known specific treatments for this virus.


What Can I Do If My Child Has Contracted HFMD?

- If you suspect your child to have HFMD, please seek medical attention quickly.
- If there are any changes in the child’s normal behaviour, e.g. irritation and sleepiness, refusal to eat/ drink, persistent vomiting or drowsiness, bring your child to the A&E Departments of either KKH or NUH, whichever is nearer.


If Your Child Has HFMD, Help To Minimise The Spread Of HFMD To Others By:

- Informing your child’s school, kindergarten or childcare centre immediately, so they can monitor other children closely and take additional precautions.
- Keeping your child at home and away from public places.
- Ensure that your child has no more symptoms of HFMD and that the doctor has certified he is fit enough to return to school.


Practice Good Hygiene:

- Frequent and proper handwashing e.g. after going to the toilet and before eating.
- Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Not sharing food/drinks, eating utensils, toothbrushes or towels with others.
- Proper disinfection of items such as toys or appliances contaminated by nasal or oral secretions.


Know your facts and protect your children! 


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