What are the complications and risk factors of hand, foot and mouth disease?

What are the complications and risk factors of hand, foot and mouth disease?

What are the complications and risk factors of hand, foot and mouth disease?

Complications of hand, foot and mouth disease

Serious complications associated with hand, foot and mouth disease are rare and generally only ocur when infectio is caused by enterovirus 71.

With HFMD caused by the other viral strains, dehydration is the most common complication associated with the condition. This is due to the fact that the sores that develop in the mouth as a result of the virus can make it difficult and painful to eat and swallow liquids.

If your child contracts hand, foot and mouth disease, it is essential to ensure that he / she remains adequately hydrated by frequently sipping water and other fluids throughout the day whilst they are sick. If this is not possible and severe dehydration occurs, a doctor may recommend that they have fluids given to them intravenously (i.e. through a vein, usually in their arm).

Symptoms of dehydration can include:

  • Dry skin
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Lack of perspiration
  • Dark yellow coloured urine
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

HFMD is normally just a minor illness and only results in a few days of relatively mild symptoms and fever. However, in some rare cases, the coxsackievirus has been known to involve the patient’s brain and can result in some other complications such as:

  • Viral meningitis – This involves inflammation of the meninges and the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain.
  • Encephalitis – This is more severe and can be life-threatening as it involves the inflammation of the brain. This is a very rare condition.

It has also been found that children may lose finger or toenails within four weeks of having the disease.

What are the risk factors for hand, foot and mouth disease?

Younger children are most at risk for the condition. Their risk of contracting HFMD is increased if they attend a childcare or a school as the virus is able to quickly spread in various ways in these facilities due to close quarters and frequent personal contact. This is the reason why the virus rarely infects those who are older than 10 years old. There is, however, still a possibility that adults and older children can contract the virus, particularly if they suffer from a weakened immune system. 

Can adults get hand, foot, and mouth disease?

We answered this above, but yes, adults can get hand, foot and mouth.  To elaborate, an adult who has been exposed to the HFMD virus is able to develop the typical signs and symptoms of the disease such as the vesicular rash (blisters on the skin) and fever. What is interesting is that most adults who have been exposed to the enterovirus family seem to not show any symptoms of being infected, they are, however, still contagious and can spread the virus to another person.

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