A hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a contagious disease caused by several viruses. It is commonly caused by coxsackievirus A16, enterovirus 71, and (but rarely) other enteroviruses. Jing et al. (2020) stated that the condition is common among infants and children below five years. However, that does not mean older children and adults are safe from the disease. HFMD can easily be transmitted to older children and adults.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease are highly contagious during the incubation period that usually lasts for about 3 to 6 days and days or even weeks after the symptoms have subsided. Before getting into the details of how to clean and disinfect a house after hand, foot, and mouth disease to prevent the spread of infection, it’s essential first to understand what it means.
How is HFMD transmitted?
HFMD is transmitted through close contact with the infected person. It can be passed through hugging, kissing, sharing eating utensils, including cups. It can be transmitted through coughing and sneezing, contact with blister fluid, contact with fecal matter when sharing the toilet, or changing a baby’s diaper (Qi et al., 2018). And finally, the infection can be transmitted through body contact with objects or surfaces that have the virus on them. The symptoms can include fever, sore throat, fatigue, dehydration, runny nose, irritability, and loss of appetite; skin peeling, blisters, rashes, and red spots on the skin.
Disinfecting a house after HFMD
First of all, it’s important to note that there’s no vaccine to prevent this disease. So if you suspect that your child could be infected with HFMD, the first thing you should do is avoid doing the things that would put you and other family members at risk of getting the infection. That includes hugging your child, kissing, and even sharing utensils (Li et al., 2018). Then regular cleaning and disinfection should follow. Thorough cleaning is required before disinfection. Clean the house with clean water and soap or detergent and then disinfect with a solution of chlorine bleach. The disinfecting solution can be mixed in a ratio of 1 tablespoon bleach to 4 cups of water. Alternatively, you can use a cleaning detergent that contains bleach. Wipe down all the contact surfaces that cannot be washed using disinfecting wipes or any cleanser that has more than 60% alcohol.
Areas and things that require regular cleaning and disinfection
A place where baby diapers are changed, utensils, and cups that the infected child uses if the baby uses a highchair, playpen, or any surface the child touches regularly. That also includes the toys, remote controls, or cellphones that the child uses. Clothes and beddings of the infected child should be cleaned daily using bleach, and cloth toys should also be cleaned with the laundry. And in any case, the child happens to share a room with a sibling or any other person, the child must be taken to a separate room, and then the room is to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The same should be done if the older child happens to catch the infection.
When you are done with cleaning and disinfection, you must wash your hands with water and antiseptic soap or generally take a bath. Ruan et al. (2011) stated that to avoid getting infected through fecal matter, you must wash your hands with soap and water whenever you change an infected baby’s diaper. Alternatively, you can use a hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol or more to sanitize your hands.
Ruan, F., Yang, T., Ma, H., Jin, Y., Song, S., Fontaine, R. E., & Zhu, B. P. (2011). Risk factors for hand, foot, and mouth disease and herpangina and the preventive effect of hand-washing. Pediatrics, 127(4), e898-e904.
Li, J., Zhu, R., Huo, D., Du, Y., Yan, Y., Liang, Z., … & He, Y. (2018). An outbreak of Coxsackievirus A6–associated hand, foot, and mouth disease in a kindergarten in Beijing in 2015. BMC pediatrics, 18(1), 277.
Qi, L., Tang, W., Zhao, H., Ling, H., Su, K., Zhao, H., … & Shen, T. (2018). Epidemiological characteristics and spatial-temporal distribution of hand, foot, and mouth disease in Chongqing, China, 2009–2016. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(2), 270.
Jing, J et al. (2020) Hand sanitizers: a review on formulation aspects, adverse effects, and regulations. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17, 3326.