It’s the HFMD season now, and various preschools and childcare centres are dealing with outbreaks of the disease.

However, the preschool where Little Miss C goes to have been having quite frequent spurts of outbreak since we enrolled her at the start of 2016. This makes me a stressed mum, as I hope that she would have the immunity to break through it. She caught it once last year at her previous childcare, but it was so mild that when we found out, she was in the midst of recovering from the disease. Only had very mild ulcers in the mouth.

This got me to think – is it possible for a child to catch HFMD twice?

Upon reading up online, here’s the verdict I got (summarised in points):

 

Dr. Greene, a renowned US-based paediatrician, was asked this question on his website, and this was the answer given:

  • HFMD is caused by several different viruses, which includes the coxsackieviruses A5, A9, A10, A16, B1, B3, enterovirus 71, foot-and-mouth disease virus and herpes simplex. Most of the times, HFMD cases are caused by the coxsackievirus A16.
  • A child with a health immune system will form antibodies to whichever virus that caused the infection. Thus, if a child is re-exposed to the same virus, he/she is unlikely to get it again – although still susceptible to the other viruses. Studies have shown that since 1963, most children have had one case of HFMD, caused by the coxsackievirus A16.
  • There is a catch, though. While most kids clear their bodies of the virus within a week, the coxsackievirus A16 has the ability to hide inside the cells, like herpes. Bypassing the cellular immune system, the coxsackie A16 can cause chronic or recurring skin lesions. A child with a healthy immune system may have more mild symptoms the second time round.
  • To sum up, while it is unlikely that a child will get HFMD a second time, there are NO GUARANTEES. But take comfort in the fact that our immune systems has a remarkable history of adapting to the ever-changing microscopic world.

On the other hand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has this to say:

  • When one gets HFMD, the develop immunity (protection) to the specific virus that caused the infection. But because HFMD is caused by a range of different viruses, it is possible to get the disease again.
  • There is no specific treatment for HFMD, other than the prescription of fever medication and pain relievers. It is also crucial for those afflicted with the diseases to drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids).

 

What can we do to prevent another episode of HFMD?

During the outbreak at the preschool, I was that anxious, annoying mum who kept taking her kid’s temperature regularly (too regularly, according to the hubby) throughout the day and repeatedly asked her to open her mouth for me to check inside with a flashlight (she obliged!). While there is no need to go overboard like I did, here are some simple things you can do:

  • Wash hands regularly with soap and water, especially after playing/cooking – this applies to both yourself and your kids!
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth as this is the easiest way for the virus to spread
  • Disinfect the surfaces, toys and objects that an infected person has come in contact with (toys, door knobs, chairs, etc)
  • Avoid crowded places such as indoor playgrounds, which are a breeding ground for germs, bacteria and viruses
  • Pump up their immunity with vitamins, fruits and nutritious soups

Let’s all do our best to keep our families safe from the disease. Remember, adults can get HFMD too – and the effects do not look good!

 

 

 

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