Hand, food and mouth disease seen on Kauai

LIHUE — School is out for fall break, but come Monday families will be settling back into the classroom routine. In addition to school supplies, it’s also important to equip keiki with useful tools for keeping them healthy.

Hand, foot and mouth disease has been reported on Kauai, but not in numbers above the normal amount of cases during this time of year, according to state Department of Health Kauai District Health Officer Janet Berreman.

“It’s very contagious,” she said. “Precautions are essential to preventing spread.”

“This is a very common childhood disease,” Berreman added. “From my pediatric primary care days, I can confirm that I saw it frequently.”

Janice Okubo, DOH spokeswoman, said DOH doesn’t monitor or track hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), but said the virus commonly circulates in the summer and fall.

“My own children have had the disease, and got it at a birthday party during the summer,” Okubo said.

The disease is most common in children younger than 5 years old, but can occur in older keiki and adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Symptoms start with a fever and reduced appetite, along with sore throat.

One or two days later, sores can develop in the mouth, often starting at the back as red spots that blister and become ulcers.

A skin rash can also appear on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, which sometimes blister, according to the CDC.

There is no vaccine to prevent HFMD, according to Okubo. Routine hygiene is a primary strategy to limit transmission of the virus.

“Cleaning a child’s toys — especially those which would be placed into the mouth or drooled upon — is important,” Okubo said. “Avoidance of direct saliva exposure is also very helpful to limit transmission.”

Kissing and sharing eating utensils are other ways the virus is spread via saliva.

Transmission is also possible via stool, so DOH recommends wearing disposable gloves while changing diapers, especially for those in preschool or day-care settings.

Berreman recommends offering things like ice pops as well as plenty of fluids to keep keiki hydrated and as comfortable as possible.

“It is uncomfortable for children and inconvenient for parents, and requires lots of TLC (tender loving care), with acetaminophen for pain and fever, and attention to maintaining hydration,” Berreman said.

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