Did you know that adults can catch hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) too? Mummy Glynisia Yeo, who caught HFMD from her two-year-old, spent 10 days in hospital after a severe attack. She even lost her fingernails, toenails and hair – read her harrowing experience here.
What can you do to prevent HFMD in adults?
We ask Dr Leong Hoe Nam, infectious disease physician from Rophi Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, who was Glynisia’s doctor.
It is unusual for a child or an adult to have such a severe attack of hand, foot and mouth disease, Dr Leong tells Young Parents.
He explains that her nails were affected as the nail beds were damaged by the infection. Her extreme hair loss is known as telogen effluvium.
“After a stressful period, the hair stops growing and subsequently falls off one to two months later, in large amounts. The good news is all these will recover,” Dr Leong explains, adding that this typically happens after one gives birth or has had a severe illness.
Tough to reduce risk of HFMD in adults
Dr Leong admits that it’s “extremely difficult” to reduce the risk.
“Family members have multiple contact and thus exposure. More exposure means more opportunities for the virus to transmit,” he points out.
“In other words, a higher viral load is transmitted, resulting in more severe disease. This consideration is not unique to HFMD, but we see it in influenza, pertussis and chickenpox, too.”
The virus is found in the infected child’s saliva. “So as the child speaks, the virus spreads,” he explains, adding that any surface that the infected child touches will also be exposed to the virus.
But it wouldn’t be practical to dress yourself and your infected child in gowns and gloves to prevent catching the virus.
As there is no vaccine yet, your only consolation is that the risk of an adult getting infected with HFMD is a low 1 to 5 per cent.
Experts advise frequent and thorough hand-washing, too.
(Photo: Glynisia Yeo)