Everything you need to know about HFMD and its preventive measures
The surge of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in Malaysia has become a matter of serious concern. The country is on alert as more than 33,000 cases have been recorded nationwide to date. Children under the age of five are highly susceptible to the disease with cases being reported at daycares, nurseries and kindergartens across the country.
Here’s what you need to know about HFMD.
What is HFMD?
HFMD or the Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is a contagious infection caused by viruses from the Enterovirus genus, most commonly Coxsackievirus A16 and Enterovirus 71. The virus is found in secretions from the nose and throat such as nasal mucus or saliva, blister fluid and stool.
How does HFMD spread?
The disease spreads by direct contact with the infected person, the air after sneeze or cough of an infected person or touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands after coming in contact with contaminated surfaces or feces.
What are the symptoms of the disease?
Though it usually affects infants and children below the age of 5, it can also occur in adults and older children. The signs and symptoms of the disease generally include fever, loss of appetite, headache, sore throat, red rashes on the palms of hands and the soles of the feet, and irritability. It usually begins with fever and red rashes or blisters are observed in the following days.
Though every infected person might not suffer from all of the symptoms, it is good to seek medical attention if you observe any of these signs in your children.
How is the disease diagnosed?
The hand, foot and mouth disease can be diagnosed through physical examination by the doctor who will check the appearance of common symptoms. The doctor or health care professional may also collect a sample from the infected person’s throat or stool to test for the virus.
What precautions can be taken to prevent HFMD?
The Health Ministry has been informing the people about the current situation of the HFMD outbreak and the health authorities have advised the people, especially the parents to play an active role in the control and prevention on the disease starting from themselves and their homes. Parents can take these precautions to prevent the disease.
Wash hands regularly
The best way to prevent HFMD is to practice good hygiene both inside and outside the house. Washing your hands on a regular basis can reduce the chances of coming in contact with the virus. Teach the children to wash hands before eating, after using the washroom and after coming home from outside.
Disinfect the home
Make sure that all the shared places in the house are cleaned on a regular basis by using a disinfectant. It is also important to keep objects like toys and pacifiers clean as they may be contaminated with the virus. Teach the children not to put any toys, other objects or their fingers in their mouth.
Do not ignore symptoms
Parents should not ignore symptoms like fever, vomiting, rashes or lethargy in the child. Please take your child to the nearby healthcare centre and get the required treatment. Also, do not take the children with HFMD or possible symptoms to any public places, daycare, kindergarten or schools as it might spread the disease to others.
Avoid sharing food and other items
It is good to avoid sharing food, drinks, utensils, clothes, toys, towels and similar objects with others during this time.
What precautions can be taken by preschools?
Considering the fact that HFMD majorly affects children under the age of 5 and is easily spread in places where children gather such as kindergartens and daycare, preschools have a major role to the play in the control and prevention of the disease.
- Preschools should take special care to maintain high standards of hygiene and both at a personal and environmental level. Teachers and staff are advised to wash their hands on a regular basis, especially after using the washroom, changing the diapers of children or accidentally touching the blisters.
- All the objects, toys or materials used by children including the floor and the toilets should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
- There should be a proper facility for the disposal or waste and diapers to reduce the risk of the disease.
- Schools are recommended to conduct screening for any HFMD symptoms before the children enter the premises.
Helping children cope with curiosity about elections
As parents, we all want our children to grow up to be responsible citizens of the country, actively participating in the growth of the nation. We can often resort to over protecting them from various ideologies instead of educating them in a way that helps them differentiate between the positive and the negative.
They already know ‘elections’
Whether you like it or not, children have overheard and picked up a lot of information from the conversations happening around them. Be it small discussions with friends, learning about parliament in the classroom or listening to your conversation at the lunch table, kids ‘know’ a lot more than you realise.
Most often than not, kids are also aware of many political issues because of the news doing its rounds on the television and through social media. Hence, instead of picking up bits and pieces of information from elsewhere, it is good to engage kids in useful topics and stories, age appropriately of course. In this way, they will learn how to discern and differentiate between fact and fiction.
Ease fears through awareness
There is much activity that comes along with every election. People organise rallies, protests and the media covers all the excitement and confusion 24/7. We all know that these topics often induce a feeling of fear and bewilderment in kids who may not be so comfortable with a politically charged environment.
Younger children may get worried as they have a short attention span and often pick up only the alarming bits of information from a conversation. There are many things they do not know and when they are unable to understand the matter, it might create unnecessary distress in their minds. Telling them about the situation creates context and it will help them understand some important issues of today without being fearful or anxious.
Present views respectfully
A lot of time we watch election candidates engaging in heated debates where they choose poor communication methods when disagreeing with each other. Such instances can be used as opportunities to explain to kids about respecting the views of others and teaching them how to express their discontent in the right way.
Kids need to understand that we are bound to disagree with each other on certain issues but what matters the most is the way we choose to disagree. In this way, kids will learn how to have an opinion and at the same time respect the view of others.
A sense of social responsibility
Teaching them about politics doesn’t mean you should indoctrinate your kids, it is about inculcating a sense of responsibility in them. While they learn concepts like justice and equality in the classroom, answering their questions about the importance of voting can help them become socially responsible citizens in future.
Young children might find it difficult to understand the complexity of the political system but they do understand the basic concepts of fairness or justice, which form an important part of democracy.
You can teach the children little facts about the role of a parliamentarian or prime minister. Voting can also be made easy and fun to understand by creating opportunities for children to learn the mechanism; they can vote for the location of the next family holiday or what game to play on game night.
With older children, who understand about the government and different political parties, you can teach them about democracy, history of the nation and patriotism.
Fun activities with kids
Young children mostly learn through imitation. Hence, you can take them with you when you go to the polls (just not inside the voting booth!) or for a visit to historical sites and museums where learning can be fun. Get involved in issues which affect the lives of others such as conservation of natural resources, improving education for the less privileged or other volunteering activities that you are interested in.
Though these things do not relate directly to politics or voting, children learn a lot about how small acts can make a big difference in the lives of others. In older children, the learning deepens as they read stories and explore the history of their nation. Eventually, they will also participate in debates or discussions at school and develop an interest in volunteering for various activities and causes.
Learning about politics or history doesn’t have to be dull or inflict fear. Engaging your child in conversations that are interesting and thoughtful, and visits to historical sites and museums, will make them aware of their social responsibility as citizens of the country and they will eventually understand the different facets of politics.