The disease normally clears up on its own in a week to ten days. / sur

Cases of hand-foot-and-mouth disease reported in schools and nurseries in Malaga province

This is a quite common childhood viral illness but it spreads like wildfire as items such as toys, rugs, chairs and tables can be contaminated

DR MARTA GARÍN MADRID.

Schools and nurseries in Malaga province are reporting a wave of new cases of hand-foot-and-mouth disease, a mild, contagious viral infection which is common in young children. The condition is often found in the spring and autumn, but doctors say at present it appears to be rampant.

The virus is transmitted via feces (which is why it spreads like wildfire in nurseries where so many babies are in nappies), mucous and saliva, but can also be caught through items such as toys, rugs, clothing, chairs and tables which have been contaminated because it can survive on them for some time.

One of the first precautions is for good hand sanitation hygiene among carers and regular cleaning of items which can be contaminated.

The incubation period for foot-hand-and-mouth disease is normally from 4 to 6 days and during that time the child will have no symptoms but can transmit the virus. After that they may have a high temperature, generally feel unwell, have a sore mouth and blisters may appear. Before the most evident symptoms occur babies may dribble a lot, avoid swallowing, put their hands in their mouths and seem very irritable.

Painful sores in the mouth

The blisters normally appear around the mouth, fingers, toes, palms of the hands and soles of the feet, but can also be elsewhere on the body including the buttocks. They do not seem to bother the children much and are normally left to disappear by themselves in a week to ten days. They can, however, be painful inside the mouth, including the lips, inner cheeks, gums, tongue and throat.

Doctors say there is no need to panic. This is an illness which tends to disappear within a week to ten days. There is no specific treatment, so the children are normally given the usual medication to reduce discomfort.

However, parents should be aware that sometimes, weeks or even months after having hand-foot-and-mouth disease the children may lose their fingernails or toenails, but there is no need for alarm. It is not painful and no treatment is required. The nails will grow back normally afterwards.