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Hand, foot & mouth Disease and Pregnancy

“ There has been reported cases of

hand foot & mouth disease

at my child’s day care

and I think my child has been exposed to the infected child,

is it a threat to me or my pregnancy?”

What is hand, foot and mouth disease? Hand, foot and mouth disease is generally a mild illness caused by the coxsackievirus.

-It is not a serious illness.

-It mainly occurs in children under 10 years of age but can also occur in older children and adults.

What are the symptoms? Can vary from no symptoms at all or only very mild symptoms.

Possible symptoms include blisters that start as small red dots which later become ulcers.

Blisters appear inside the cheeks, gums, and on the sides of the tongue, around the mouth and as well as on the hands and feet.

In infants, blisters can sometimes be seen in the nappy area.

Children sometimes have a low fever, sore throat, tiredness, feel off colour and may be off their food for a day or two.

How is it spread? Hand, foot and mouth disease is usually spread by person-to-person contact. The virus is spread from the faeces of an infected person to the mouth of the next person by contaminated hands.

It is also spread by secretions from the mouth or respiratory system, and by direct contact with the fluid from blisters

It usually takes between 3 > 5 days after contact with an infected person before blisters appear.

The viruses can remain in faeces for several weeks.

Quite often prevalent among child care facilities and children in close proximity

Is there risk to my pregnancy? The viruses that cause hand, foot and mouth disease are common and adults including pregnant women are often exposed to them without symptoms.

Most infections during pregnancy cause mild or no illness in the mother.

There is no clear evidence that maternal infection causes adverse outcomes of pregnancy, such as abortion, stillbirth, or congenital defects.

However, mothers infected shortly before delivery may pass the virus to the newborn.

Babies born to mothers who have symptoms of enteroviral illness around the time of delivery are more likely to be infected.

Most newborns infected with an enterovirus have mild illness, but, in rare cases, they may develop an overwhelming infection of many organs, including liver and heart, and die from the infection.

The risk of this severe illness in newborns is higher during the first two weeks of life.

How can it be prevented?

Good hygiene is the best protection: - Wash hands with soap and water after going to the toilet, before eating, after wiping noses, and after changing nappies or soiled clothing.

Disposable gloves when changing nappies is a good idea. • Avoid sharing cups, eating utensils, items of personal hygiene (for example: towels, washers and toothbrushes), and clothing (especially shoes and socks).

• Thoroughly wash any soiled clothing.

• Ensure the mouth and nose are covered when coughing and sneezing.

• Wipe the nose and mouth with tissues, dispose of used tissues and then wash your hands.

• With consideration that the virus can be faeces for several weeks after the rash had gone, take ongoing extra precautions with dirty nappies.

Minimize contact with infected people

• Where practical it is always a good idea to avoid contact infected children if you are pregnant (especially in advanced pregnancy) and especially where possible keep any toddlers you have away from other infected children.

• Remember the virus can be in faeces after the rash goes.

How is it diagnosed? The doctor can diagnose hand, foot and mouth disease based on the symptoms.

Laboratory tests are not usually necessary.

How is it treated? Usually no treatment is needed. Paracetamol will relieve fever and discomfort. Allow blisters to dry out naturally. The blisters should not be deliberately burst because the fluid within them is infectious.

What are the signs of a serious infection? Signs that an infant or older child might have a more serious form of hand, foot and mouth disease include any of the following: • persistent fever (38°C or above for 72 hours or more) • abnormal movements / jerking movements • rapid breathing • excessive tiredness, drowsiness • excessive irritability • difficulty walking.

If you thing you have been exposed to Hand foot and mouth disease it is always a good idea to phone your obstetrician or medical specialist for further advise given your individual circumstance

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