Chickenpox and hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) are both viral infections that can cause a rash and blisters on the skin. They are common in children, but can also affect adults. However, they are not related to each other and have different causes, symptoms, treatments and complications. Here is what you need to know about these two diseases and how to tell them apart.
What is chickenpox?
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which belongs to the herpesvirus family. It is highly contagious and spreads through respiratory droplets, direct contact with the blisters or objects contaminated by the virus. The incubation period is 10 to 21 days, meaning that it can take up to three weeks for the symptoms to appear after exposure.
The main symptom of chickenpox is a red, itchy rash that starts on the chest, back and face and then spreads to the rest of the body. The rash consists of small, fluid-filled blisters that eventually crust over and heal. The rash usually lasts for 5 to 10 days. Other symptoms may include fever, headache, loss of appetite, tiredness and malaise.
Chickenpox can be prevented by getting vaccinated against VZV. The vaccine is recommended for children aged 12 to 15 months and again at 4 to 6 years. It can also be given to older children and adults who have not had chickenpox or the vaccine before. The vaccine is safe and effective, and can protect against severe complications of chickenpox.
What is hand, foot and mouth disease?
Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is caused by various enteroviruses, most commonly coxsackievirus A16. It is also contagious and spreads through saliva, nasal secretions, feces or contact with the blisters or objects contaminated by the virus. The incubation period is 3 to 6 days, meaning that it can take up to a week for the symptoms to appear after exposure.
The main symptom of HFMD is a rash of small, red spots or blisters that mainly affects the mouth, hands and feet. The rash may also appear on the buttocks, genitals or other parts of the body. The rash can be painful or itchy and may last for 7 to 10 days. Other symptoms may include fever, sore throat, loss of appetite, irritability and malaise.
There is no vaccine for HFMD. The best way to prevent it is by practicing good hygiene, such as washing hands frequently, avoiding sharing utensils or cups, disinfecting surfaces and toys, and covering coughs and sneezes. There is also no specific treatment for HFMD. The symptoms can be managed by drinking plenty of fluids, eating soft foods, using painkillers or mouthwashes and applying creams or lotions to soothe the skin.
How to tell them apart?
Chickenpox and HFMD can look similar at first glance, but there are some key differences that can help you distinguish them:
- Chickenpox rash usually starts on the torso and then spreads outward, while HFMD rash usually starts in the mouth and then affects the hands and feet.
- Chickenpox blisters are round and clear, while HFMD blisters are oval and grayish-white.
- Chickenpox blisters tend to cluster in groups of three or more, while HFMD blisters tend to be scattered or isolated.
- Chickenpox blisters may appear anywhere on the body, while HFMD blisters are mostly limited to specific areas.
- Chickenpox may cause more severe symptoms such as high fever, headache or vomiting, while HFMD may cause more mild symptoms such as low fever or sore throat.
If you are not sure whether you or your child has chickenpox or HFMD, you should consult your doctor for a diagnosis and advice. Both diseases can sometimes cause complications such as dehydration, bacterial infections or neurological problems that may require medical attention.
Chickenpox and hand, foot and mouth disease are both viral infections that can cause a rash and blisters on the skin. They are not related to each other and have different causes, symptoms, treatments and complications. They can be prevented by practicing good hygiene and getting vaccinated against chickenpox. If you suspect that you or your child has either of these diseases, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis and advice.