The last three days have been excruciating for two-and a half-year-old Sneha (name changed), who developed itchy rashes on her hands and legs. While the lesions and symptoms were identical to that of chicken pox, doctors conducted further tests and later diagnosed her with hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).
It is a contagious viral illness that commonly affects infants and young children below the age of five. City paediatricians say that this case is not an isolated one, as, this year, there has been an increase in the number of HFMD cases within the last two weeks itself.
Sanchita Pandey, mother of one such child in Santacruz (East), said, “She is in pain now and an ointment has been prescribed to reduce the pain. On the first day, she had fever of 101 degrees, but thankfully, it has now subsided. We hope the boils on her hands, elbows and legs also reduce gradually.”
23-month-old Sunil (name changed) from Saki Naka had blisters in his mouth and trouble swallowing due to HFMD. It took nearly 10 days for the boils to heal. “He is on fluids and contracted the disease after playing with another child from our building.
It turns out that he had HFMD and around three other children were also infected with the disease,’ said the infant’s mother, requesting anonymity. The disease spreads at an alarming rate among children, through contact with saliva, mucus or the faeces of a child infected with the enterovirus.
“Last year, around this time, several children residing in BDD Chawl in Worli were suffering from HFMD”, said Dr Mukesh Agarwal, head of the paediatrics department at KEM Hospital. “Within this week, I have come across 8-10 patients with different types of skin lesions which look like insect bites.
They are treated for the itching and fever, but after four to five days, the lesions go away. It is very rare for a child to be admitted for this disease though it is highly infectious,” he said. Dr Atish Laddad, consultant paediatrician at Kohinoor Hospital, Kurla, said that he has been treating nearly seven patients each day with HFMD.
“This year, it is more widespread and the patients are from different parts of Mumbai, other than Western suburbs like Bandra and Andheri. The patients recover within five to seven days and usually have moderate fever.”
HFMD usually causes fever, rash and boils on the hands and feet, and painful sores in the mouth, making it difficult for the patient to swallow. Practising good hygiene, such as washing hands often, can reduce infection risk.
“In some cases, there are boils on the patient’s buttocks as well, but the most painful are the mouth sores. However, these patients are treated symptomatically and it spreads only among children.
Hence, it is advised they don’t interact with other kids unless cured,” said Dr K P Sanghvi, senior neonatologist at Jaslok Hospital. The Peddar Road hospital has been treating nearly two patients with HFMD in the OPD each day.
>> Usually causes fever, painful sores in the mouth, and a rash on the hands and feet
>> Is a contagious disease
>> Mostly affects infants and children younger than five years old
>> Has no specific treatment
>> Practising good hygiene can reduce infection risk
>> Is not the same as foot-and-mouth disease