With Hand, Foot and Mouth disease present all year round in Singapore, it pays to be safe. But just how serious is it for an expecting mummy?
I am currently 28 weeks pregnant and have just found out that I have Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. Will it affect my baby? And are there any precautions I should take?
Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a viral infection that is common among children younger than five years old. This common childhood illness can sometimes affect adults.
The first symptoms of HFMD include fever, sore throat, lethargy and a loss of appetite. It typically causes painful sores in the mouth, and a red, blister-like rash on the palms and soles. The symptoms are usually the same in adults and children. It is possible to get HFMD more than once. Very rarely, complications may occur, such as the spread of infection to the brain or heart.
HFMD in pregnancy normally presents with little to no risk to the pregnancy or baby. However, like any febrile illnesses, it may on rare occasions result in miscarriage or stillbirth. Getting HFMD shortly before delivery can mean the baby is born with the infection. Such cases are usually mild and can be self-limited but can, rarely, be life-threatening.
There is no known treatment of HFMD, although you can take medications such as paracetamol to relieve the pain and fever. It usually gets better within seven to 10 days. To alleviate the symptoms, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, eat soft foods such as porridge which may be less painful to swallow, and avoid acidic drinks or spicy food.
HFMD can be easily passed to others. It can spread by coming into contact with bodily fluids, faeces and discharge from the rash of the infected person. You are infectious three to five days before your symptoms appear but are most likely to pass it on to others in the first week of illness. To reduce the risk of spreading HFMD, you should avoid close contact with others, wash your hands often, use tissues to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, dispose used tissues quickly, refrain from sharing towels, cups, cutlery or other household items, and wash any soiled bedding or clothing. Likewise, you can avoid contracting HFMD by practising good hygiene, staying away from infected children, and keeping any toddlers you already have away from infected children.
You can breastfeed even if you had HFMD in pregnancy. The virus will not be transmitted through your breastmilk and the antibodies you provide your baby through breastmilk can protect him or her from the disease.
Please consult your doctor if you show symptoms of HFMD or are worried regarding your pregnancy.
Question answered by:
Dr Clara Ong
National University Hospital (NUH) Women’s Centre