Hand Mouth Foot Disease (Tomato Flu): Causes, Symptoms, And Precautionary Measures

September 7, 2022

Dr. Satheesha S.R
Consultant Pediatrician
MBBS, DMB (Paediatrics)

The current surge of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in India has spread panic among parents and children. While India is reviving from the COVID-19 pandemic and battling the threat of Monkeypox, the country faces another challenge of protecting the youngest population group (children) from Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. The disease is nationwide famous as Tomato Flu, which is a virus variant of HFMD. It’s mild but highly contagious viral infection affecting young children. Being highly contagious, the infection is spreading by leaps and bounds among the kids. Mumbai and West Bengal are the worst affected cities in India. So, exercising the right precautions to curb the spread of the viral disease has become the need of the hour. Continue reading to discover all about Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (Tomato Flu).

What is Hand Foot and Mouth Disease?

Hand Foot Mouth Disease is a mild but highly contagious viral infection which is common in kids under the age of 5; however, it also affects older children. It results due to Coxsackievirus A16 and Enterovirus 71. Hand Foot and Mouth Disease was first reported in New Zealand in 1957. Later, in 1958, Coxsackievirus A16 was identified. India witnessed the first case of HFMD in 2003 in Kerala. And, as far as the current outbreak (in 2022) of HFMD is concerned, India reported the first case on 6th May 2022 in Kollam in Kerala. Even though this infection is not serious, it spreads rapidly among the kids at daycare centres and schools.

Causes of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease:

The viral infection of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease develops due to Coxsackievirus A16, which is a virus that falls in the group of viruses known as nonpolio enteroviruses. Other types of enterovirus A71 may also lead to the development of this disease.

 How Does Hand Foot and Mouth Disease Spread?

The viral infection of HFMD spreads rapidly among infants, toddlers, and kids. Humans get infected through the mouth. The infection spreads from an infected person (child) to others. The infection is transmitted through the infected person’s:

·      Fluid from the blisters 

·      Cough

·      Sneeze

·      Saliva

·      Throat discharge

·      Nose secretions

·      Respiratory droplets that mix into the air once the infection individual sneezes or coughs

·      Stool

·      Sharing of objects such as utensils and kids’ toys

Symptoms of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease:

Here are some common symptoms that children suffer from due to Hand Food Mouth Disease.

·      Rash on the hands, palms, feet, and soles. The rash may have blisters. It can be red, grey, white, or tiny bumps.

·      Fever 

·      Sores in the mouth; painful lesions that resemble blisters develop on the gums, tongue, and inside the cheeks

·      Sore throat

·      Fussiness in toddlers and infants

·      A loss of appetite

·      Feeling sick

·      Crankiness in the kids

The incubation period of this viral infection is three to six days. Kids may develop a sore throat, fever, loss of appetite, or general feeling of not being well. Within a couple of days, after the child gets a fever, a rash may develop on the hands and feet, at times on the buttocks, and painful sores may appear in the front of his throat or mouth.

Who is at Risk of Getting Infected with Hand Foot and Mouth Disease?

Infants, toddlers, kids, and children are at a high risk of contracting this viral infection. Spending time at the daycare centre or attending school increases their risk of getting infected, as the virus is quite contagious and spreads rapidly. However, exposure to viruses builds immunity in the kids; that’s why children older than 10 years rarely contract this viral infection. Adults or older children contract Hand Foot and Mouth Disease if they have a weakened immune system.

Treatment for Hand Foot and Mouth Disease:

No specific treatment is available to treat the viral infection of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. Usually, the discomforting symptoms of the infection vanish in about 7 to 10 days. Doctors may prescribe topical oral anaesthetics that can help kids obtain relief from painful mouth sores. Comfort-care solutions include prescribed mouthwash and pain-relievers. For, general discomfort, the physician may prescribe over-the-counter medicines, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

Home Remedies That Can Speed Up Your Recovery From HFMD:

In addition to the doctor’s prescribed treatment, some easy home remedies may help promote healing. Here are some helpful solutions that you can follow along with a doctor’s prescription when battling HFMD.

·       Go for Liquid Diet: Have fruit juices, tender coconut ragi millet soup, and Rava kanji.

·       Savour popsicles and ice chips.

·       Avoid eating salty and spicy foods.

·       Stay away from soda, citrus fruits, and fruit drinks.

4 Preventive Measures That Can Avoid or Lower the Risk of Infection:

Following certain preventive measures can help lower the risk of developing Hand Foot and Mouth Disease in children. Here are some easy yet effective tips that can help prevent or reduce the risk of infection in children.

1. Wash Your Hands Often: Make sure that you wash your hands once you come indoors, before preparing and consuming food, after using the toilet or changing diapers, and after coughing and sneezing. Use good soap or handwash and wash your hands. Spend a minimum of 20 seconds to wash your hands well. 

2. Inculcate Good Hygiene Practices in Kids: Demonstrate how to wash hands properly to your kids and ask them to wash their hands often. Teach them how to practice and maintain overall good hygiene. Tell them to use a handkerchief to cover their nose and mouth if they happen to cough or sneeze or if another person in their vicinity happens to cough or sneeze. Explain to your kids why it is not good to put their finger or any other object in their mouth.

3. Clean and Disinfect Common Spaces: Disinfect surfaces and areas that people often access. Use diluted chlorine bleach and water to clean the areas. If you are in a childcare centre, implement a strict schedule of disinfecting and cleaning.  The virus lies on the surfaces in common areas, such as surfaces of tables, chairs, and door knobs, and shared items such as toys for days. So, clean and disinfect them often to develop a virus-free environment.

4. Care to Avoid Close Contact: As this viral infection is quite contagious and affects kids, educate your kids to avoid coming in contact with others when they develop symptoms. If your child is suffering from this infection, keep your kid out of the daycare centre and school till the fever and mouth sores subside.

Do HFMD Infected Children Need Hospitalization?

The symptoms of HFMD last for about 7 to 10 days and vanish thereafter. A majority of children recover from the viral infection by resting at home, and hospitalization is needed rarely. However, doctors recommend being cautious and taking more care of kids with low immunity or who fail to recover from the infection even after 10 days. Some kids may develop health complications such as poor oral intake and dehydration. Viral meningitis, encephalitis, and myocarditis are other rare complications. If the infected kid suffers from persistent high fever or severely reduced oral intake, hospitalizing the child is recommended.

If your child has contracted the viral infection of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease and fails to experience improvement in health or reduction in symptoms after 10 days, reach out to us at https://specialisthospital.in/ or call for emergency on 080 4212 2222. Our certified, expert doctors and healthcare professionals will rush to attend to and treat your child with the best treatment care for restoring your kid’s health to normalcy. Follow the right precautions, care for your child, and seek our assistance to help your kid heal smoothly and speedily with our quality medical care.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618835/#:~:text=Hand%2C%20foot%2C%20and%20mouth%20disease,and%20echovirus%2018%20(Echo18)

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-health/hand-foot-and-mouth-disease-tomato-flu-symptoms-treatment-prevention-explained-8120387/

Find a Doctor Request an Appointment Book a Healthcheck