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Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease (HFMD) : What you Need to Know




Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease (HFMD) is present in Singapore all year round, and the seasonal outbreaks occurring in childcare centres, kindergartens and schools are generally mild.  However, a certain type of the virus, EV71, can give rise to serious complications.  These complications, usually involving the heart and nervous system (e.g. encephalitis), have been known to cause fatality.  HFMD is an infectious disease that is notifiable by law since October 2000.

HFMD : What you Need to Know – WHAT IS HFMD & HOW IS IT SPREAD

  • HFMD is an airborne viral disease
  • It is transmitted through direct contact
  • The incubation period of HFMD is 3 to 5 days (with a range from 2 days to 2 weeks)

HFMD : What you Need to Know – COMMON SYMPTOMS

A child with HFMD may suffer from some of the following common signs and symptoms:-

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Ulcers in the throat, mouth and on the tongue
    • In sever cases, the ulcers in the mouth can be very painful, interfering with the intake of food and drink.  This could result in dehydration, as could persistant committing/diarrhoea, and a reduced fluid intake.
  • Headache
  • Rash with vesicles (small blisters 3-7mm) on hands and feet – the vesicles are typically on the palm side of the hands, the sole side of the feet and very characteristic in appearance.  The rash may also be present on the buttocks, arms and legs.
  • Poor appetite
  • Lathergy
  • However, symptoms may vary between individuals, and at different stages of the disease, e.g. some may only have a rash or others may show no symptoms at all.


We need to know that, occasionally, complications such as brain, lung or heart infections may occur.  This is usually due to the EV71 virus and can be serious.  Some signs and symptoms of these complications include:-

  • Severe headaches, giddiness and neck stiffness
  • Disorientation, drowsiness and/or irritability
  • Fits
  • Breathlessness or turning blue.


HFMD : What you Need to Know – HOW TO TREAT HFMD

There is no specific treatment for the infection other than symptomatic relief of symptoms.  If you do suspect that your child has HFMD, you should take him/her to your family doctor immediately.

In the meantime, you should take these steps to ease your child’s discomfort and help them to recover easily:-

  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids
  • Chance to a soft diet (e.g. porridge, pureed fruit) if the mouth ulcers are proving painful
  • You can give paracetamol tablet or syrup to relieve fever (do check with a doctor if you are unsure)
  • Ensure your child gets plenty of rest at home.

HFMD : What you Need to Know – KEEP OTHERS SAFE

Because HFMD is transmitted via direct contact then you must keep your child at home until all of the blister have dried up and he/she has fully recovered.  Your doctor can advise when it is safe to return to school, if you are in doubt.

To minimise the spread to others and to keep others safe, follow these tips:-

  • Keep your child at home (no school, no kindergarten, no childcare centre)
  • Keep your child away from public places (no restaurants, no playgrounds, no shopping malls)
  • Do look out for signs and symptoms in other family members (both children and adults)
  • Keep your child’s toys, books, eating utensils, towels and clothes separate from others
  • Do inform your child’s school, kindergarten, childcare centre or enrichment classes as soon as possible so they can monitor other children closely and take their own precautions to minimise the spread of HFMD

HFMD: What you Need to Know – PREVENT THE SPREAD

Simple good hygiene practices can protect your child and you from HFMD:-

  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after eating and always after going to the toilet
  • Cover the mouth and nose with tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid sharing food/drinks, eating utensils, toothbrushes or towels with others.
  • You should ensure toys and other items which have been in contact with nasal or oral secretions are disinfected before they are used again.

This information is taken from the All About Hand, Food & Mouth Disease download prepared by the Health Promotion Board.  For more information you may visit their page on Hand, Food & Mouth Disease : Prevention and Protection

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