Adult with hand foot and mouth? Here's what you need to know
Written by tapGP Clinical Team
16 September 2023
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is usually seen in children, but adults can also get it. If you’re an adult with hand, foot, and mouth disease or think you might have it, understanding the illness, its symptoms, and what to do is vital. In this detailed guide, we’ll explore hand, foot, and mouth disease in adults, covering the disease, its symptoms, and how to manage and recover from it.
What is hand foot and mouth and is it contagious?
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a highly contagious viral infection, mainly caused by the coxsackievirus. While it mostly affects infants and young children, adults can also get it. The virus spreads through direct contact with an infected person’s saliva, faeces, or respiratory secretions. It can also spread through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects.
What are the symptoms of hand, foot and mouth in adults?
The symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease in adults are similar to those in children but can be more severe. Here are the key symptoms:
- Fever: Hand, foot, and mouth disease often starts with a sudden and sometimes high fever, which can be tough on adults.
- Sore Throat: You may have a painful sore throat, making it hard to swallow.
- Mouth Sores: Painful sores can develop inside your mouth, including on the tongue, gums, and the inner lining of your cheeks.
- Skin Rash: A red rash may appear on your hands, feet, or other parts of your body. In some cases, these rashes can turn into small blisters.
- Fatigue: Hand, foot, and mouth disease can leave you feeling very tired and low on energy.
- Loss of Appetite: Mouth sores can make eating uncomfortable, leading to a reduced appetite.
- Joint Pain: Some adults with hand, foot, and mouth disease report joint pain or muscle aches.
How can I manage hand foot and mouth disease as an adult?
Dealing with hand, foot, and mouth disease effectively involves several steps:
- Rest: Allow your body the time it needs to recover. Adequate rest is crucial for your immune system to fight the virus and help you recover.
- Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids like water, herbal teas, and clear broths to prevent dehydration. Avoid acidic or spicy foods that can irritate mouth sores.
- Over-the-Counter Pain Relief: You can use over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce fever and relieve discomfort. Follow the recommended doses.
- Topical Relief: Over-the-counter oral numbing gels or sprays can help ease mouth sore pain.
- Isolation: Hand, foot, and mouth disease is highly contagious. Stay home from work and social activities to prevent spreading the virus. Be especially cautious around family members and children until you’re no longer contagious.
- Practise Good Hygiene: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid close contact with others until you’re no longer contagious, typically when the fever subsides, and mouth sores start healing.
- Disinfect Surfaces: Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home to prevent further spread.
When should I see a doctor about hand, foot and mouth in adults?
While hand, foot, and mouth disease is generally mild in adults, there are situations where medical help is necessary:
- Severe Symptoms: If you have severe symptoms like difficulty breathing, a persistent high fever, or signs of dehydration (like dry mouth, dark urine, or feeling very tired), seek medical help.
- Pregnancy: If you’re pregnant and get hand, foot, and mouth disease, consult your healthcare provider as it can pose risks to the baby.
- Complications: In rare cases, hand, foot, and mouth disease can lead to complications like viral meningitis or encephalitis. Seek immediate medical care if you experience severe headaches, neck pain, confusion, or neurological symptoms.
- Worsening Symptoms: If your symptoms worsen instead of improving after a few days, it’s wise to consult a healthcare professional.
Remember that, although hand, foot, and mouth disease in adults can be uncomfortable, most cases resolve on their own with proper care and rest. By following these guidelines and seeking medical attention when necessary, you can manage hand, foot, and mouth disease and prevent its spread to others. It’s also crucial to maintain clear communication with your healthcare provider throughout your recovery for the best results.
How can I recover from hand foot and mouth disease as an adult?
Recovering from hand, foot, and mouth disease as an adult takes time and patience. Here’s what you can do:
- Gradual Return to Activities: As you start feeling better and your fever goes down, slowly resume your normal activities. Begin with light tasks and gradually increase your physical activity as your strength returns.
- Nutrition: Focus on a balanced diet with soft, easy-to-eat foods that won’t worsen mouth sores. Items like yoghurt, applesauce, mashed potatoes, and scrambled eggs can be gentle on your mouth.
- Pain Management: Continue using over-the-counter pain relievers as needed to manage discomfort and reduce fever. Follow the recommended dosage instructions.
- Stay Hydrated: Keep up with hydration by drinking plenty of water, herbal teas, and clear broths. Avoid drinks that can irritate your throat, like acidic juices or hot, spicy drinks.
- Oral Care: Maintain good oral hygiene by gently brushing your teeth and tongue. Be cautious around mouth sores to avoid aggravating them.
- Isolation Precautions: Stay isolated and practise good hand hygiene until you’re no longer contagious. This typically happens when the fever subsides, and mouth sores start healing.
- Follow-up with Healthcare Provider: If you sought medical attention during your illness, follow up with your healthcare provider as recommended. They can assess your progress and provide guidance on when it’s safe to return to work or other activities.
How can I stop hand, foot, and mouth disease from Spreading?
Preventing hand, foot, and mouth disease transmission is crucial even after your symptoms improve because you may still carry the virus. Follow these precautions to reduce the risk of spreading hand, foot, and mouth disease to others:
- Handwashing: Keep washing your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; this is one of the most effective ways to prevent the virus from spreading.
- Avoid Close Contact: Maintain social distancing and avoid close contact with others, especially children and pregnant individuals, until you’re no longer contagious.
- Surface Disinfection: Keep disinfecting commonly touched surfaces in your home regularly, such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops, and shared bathroom fixtures.
- Cover Coughs and Sneezes: If you need to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or your elbow to prevent respiratory droplets from spreading.
- Personal Items: Avoid sharing personal items like towels, utensils, or drinking glasses with others until you’re no longer contagious.
- Childcare and Schools: If you have young children or work in childcare or education, follow the guidelines provided by local health authorities regarding when it’s safe for your child to return to school or for you to return to work.
When can I return to work after hand, foot, and mouth disease?
- Returning to work after having hand, foot, and mouth disease requires careful consideration for your safety and that of your colleagues:
- Consult with Healthcare Provider: Before returning to work, consult with your healthcare provider to ensure you’re no longer contagious and medically fit to resume your duties.
- Notify Your Employer: Inform your employer about your diagnosis and expected return date. This allows them to make necessary arrangements and take precautions.
- Follow Workplace Guidelines: Comply with workplace guidelines or policies related to illness and infection control. This may include wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, or following specific hygiene protocols.
- Respect Colleague Concerns: Be understanding of your colleagues’ concerns; some may worry about exposure, so maintaining open communication is essential.
- Flexible Work Arrangements: If possible, consider flexible work arrangements, such as remote work, initially to minimise in-person contact.
- Hygiene Measures: Continue practising good hygiene at work by washing your hands regularly, using hand sanitizer, and following any workplace-specific hygiene protocols.
How can I prevent hand foot and mouth disease as an adult?
While hand, foot, and mouth disease is more common in children, adults can take steps to reduce their risk:
- Hand Hygiene: Maintain good hand hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after close contact with individuals who may have hand, foot, and mouth disease.
- Avoid Close Contact: Minimise close contact with individuals infected with hand, foot, and mouth disease, especially during the contagious period.
- Disinfect Surfaces: Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home and workplace to reduce the risk of transmission.
- Personal Hygiene: Practise good personal hygiene by avoiding the sharing of personal items like towels and utensils.
- Hand Sanitizer: Carry hand sanitizer for times when soap and water aren’t available, and use it to disinfect your hands.
- Educate Yourself: Stay informed about hand, foot, and mouth disease by learning about its symptoms and how it spreads. This knowledge can help you take precautions.
- Vaccination: Currently, there’s no specific vaccine for hand, foot, and mouth disease, but staying up-to-date with routine vaccinations supports your overall immune health.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease in Special Populations
Certain groups may be more vulnerable to hand, foot, and mouth disease’s effects:
- Pregnant: If you’re pregnant with hand, foot, and mouth disease, you should speak to a doctor as there’s a potential risk to the baby. Doctors will monitor the pregnancy and provide guidance on symptom management.
- Immunocompromised: If you have a weakened immune system (e.g., HIV/AIDS, cancer, organ transplants), you may experience more severe symptoms with hand, foot, and mouth disease. Speaking to a doctor is crucial if you suspect you have hand, foot, and mouth disease.
- Elderly Adults: Older adults, especially those with underlying health conditions, may face a higher risk of complications if they contract hand, foot, and mouth disease. You should follow the same precautions and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease can affect adults, and while it can be uncomfortable, it’s usually manageable with rest and care. Preventing the spread of the virus to others is vital, even after your symptoms improve. Pregnant individuals, immunocompromised individuals, and older adults should seek medical attention if they contract hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Remember that most cases of hand, foot, and mouth disease in adults resolve on their own with proper care and rest. By staying informed, practising good hygiene, and seeing a doctor when necessary, you can effectively manage hand, foot, and mouth disease and protect your health and the health of those around you.
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