“My toddler was covered in boils from HFMD”

A mother details her son’s experience with Hand, Foot & Mouth disease, plus shares survival tips with parents.

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“Just like every other child, my son Dhilan has had his fair share of illnesses. So after two-and-a-half years of handling baby- and toddler-related health issues, I thought I had seen everything there was to see. That was until he came down with a severe case of Hand, Foot & Mouth disease (HFMD) two months ago.

Our day started like any other day ― I dropped Dhilan off at school that Friday. He seemed perfectly fine that morning, but I noticed he was warmer than usual when I picked him up. The fever got worse a few hours after we got home.

Dhilan wasn’t looking well either ― his eyes were watery and he was lethargic. When my son stops being active, I know it’s never a good sign as he’s normally a little Energizer Bunny. My husband and I decided to take him to the GP. By then, his fever had hit 38 deg C ― the doctor also noticed his throat was inflamed. Dhilan was diagnosed with a viral flu and we were sent home with some meds.

“To our shock and horror, the rash had ballooned into menacing colourless boils by the next morning.”

By the time we got home, Dhilan had rashes all over his body ― palms, knees, elbow creases, wrist, plus, the back of his neck and thighs. They were everywhere. Since Dhilan has tanned skin, the marks didn’t look red, also, they were small and faint, so HFMD was the last thing on my mind. I brushed it off as a harmless rash associated with the viral flu.

To our shock and horror, the rash had ballooned into menacing colourless boils by the next morning. They had also spread to other parts of Dhilan’s body ― they were on his knee caps, knuckles, between his fingers and on his inner thighs.

I had heard of and seen pictures of HFMD cases. The typical red spots, especially around the mouth, were missing in Dhilan’s case, so I still wasn’t sure if it was HFMD or not. A call to our paediatrician confirmed our fears and also that Dhilan’s case was presenting a little differently.

This is when the nightmare really began. Dhilan was constantly scratching, which led to a lot of bleeding. His fever also spiked ― to 39 deg C. We were prescribed an oral antihistamine to help relieve the itch, however, instead of making him drowsy, the medication had the opposite effect on our son. He was super hyper, but since the boils prevented him from moving too much, Dhilan was in a perpetually miserable state.

Besides the antihistamine, there weren’t any other meds that could help our little fella. We were told to give him lots of cooling liquids and foods, like coconut water and watermelon, to bring down the fever.


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I also sponged him down with a wet cloth. To soothe the itch, I used ice and aloe vera gel on his boils. What really helped, too, was using neem leaves to gently brush his skin. Neem leaves have plenty of medicinal properties and one of them is to provide relief from itching, thanks to its anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties.

The next three days were one of the most stressful days of our lives. Dhilan wasn’t able to sleep. He managed to doze off from exhaustion for a maximum of15 minutes but was up again fussing, crying and trying to pick at his boils. Dhilan also didn’t have much of an appetite, which added to his misery. He took small bites of chicken porridge to keep his strength up. We were told to stay away from seafood as it would only aggravate the itch.

“This was, hands-down, the worst child-related health ordeal we’ve ever had to face.”

Changing his diaper was also a nightmare as it was hard to clean in between the boils. My son would also struggle with us when we tried changing him. Since it was too painful and itchy for him to keep his diaper on, we decided to let him go diaper free and made him use the potty with great difficulty.

My husband and I took turns to care for Dhilan night and day. It was a full-time job managing his fever and preventing him from scratching his boils. It was also hard to watch him suffer ― we felt so helpless that we couldn’t do more. To date, this was, hands-down, the worst child-related health ordeal we’ve ever had to face.

I don’t think we would have pulled-through without the additional support from my mum and her helper. They offered round-the-clock assistance caring for Dhilan. They spent days just cuddling him in their arms to give our little boy, who was feeling so poorly, the assurance he needed that everything was going to be fine soon.

And better it got, five days later. The boils shrank, his fever broke and Dhilan’s appetite improved. Since we had been giving him sponge baths all this while, it took a little longer to convince my mini-me that showering wasn’t going to make his scars to sting. He was a little apprehensive about being under running water.

Because of the severity of his HFMD, Dhilan still has visible scars, but they will get better with time. It’s been two months since this harrowing chapter in our lives. While I’m happy to put it behind me, I will never forget how difficult HFMD can be, not only for the child, but also for the caretakers! I’m just grateful for the unwavering support from my ‘village’ ― and will always be.”

Kumari Revi, 36, is a stay-at-home mum to Dhilan, 2.

Photos: iStock and Kumari Revi

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