Singaporean mum catches HFMD: Adults can get HFMD
Glynisia was confirmed to have contracted the HFMD from her 2-year-old son
When we talk of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD), we automatically associate it with children. But did you know that adults can contract it too? And what’s more, the outcome can be severe and extremely painful, as experience by one Singaporean mum of two.
Glynisia Yeo, mother of 2-year-old Conran didn’t think much of the red spot that appeared on her palm in March 2016. Her attention was more focussed on her little boy, who was cranky and recovering from HFMD.
But the next day, a few more spots appeared and it was confirmed that Glynisia had contracted HFMD after a visit to the general practitioner.
As the days went by, blisters started to appear on other parts of her body such as her hand and wrists, making it possible for her to sleep only after applying calamine lotion.
The next day, “bulbous, freaky-looking sores” appeared on her hands and Glynisia found it difficult to even open and clench her fists without wincing in pain.
Even as she was changing her son’s diaper, she found that it had gotten even more itchy and pain, and decided to go to a hospital by the evening at 8pm.
At Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Glynisia was sent to the isolation ward and was put on a drip.
Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease physician, said that it was rare for adults to contract HFMD and that Glynisia could expect throat ulcers to appear the next day, including the possibility of her not being able to walk for the next few days due to the sores on her feet.
During her stay in the hospital, Glynisia had fluids pumped into her to avoid dehydration and she found it difficult to even go to the washroom to relieve herself.
She needed a nurse to assist her to the toilet, even when she bathed. This went on for six days of her stay.
As ulcers were developing in her throat, she found it difficult to eat anything, even liquid food, which wasn’t dangerous if not for the drip. She describes even smooth porridge feeling like a “spiky ball” going down her throat.
Ice-cream, jelly, even iced-water — nothing worked. But eventually, she realised that drinking iced chamomile tea didn’t cause any difficulty in consuming, so downed the drink “like water.”
The next few days, the blisters on her hands started making her skin peel, making it “stiff and sharp at the edges”. A dermatologist suggested she soak her hands in a solution, and even offered some cream to apply, but her hands didn’t soothe instantly.
On the bright side, her appetite was back and she could walk on her own.
The next day, she nurse took out Glynisia’s drip, although the blisters and peeling of her skin got worst, which still didn’t help in her daily tasks, even brushing her own hair proved to be difficult.
On the 11th day of the ordeal, the sores on her hands started to dry up, same as her mouth ulcers. Glynisia managed to bathe herself with the use of gloves.
She also managed to consume curry puff and iced milk tea.
The next day, the red spots on her hands started to lighten and Glynisia managed to walk normally, despite her swollen toes.
She was finally able to leave the hospital after the 13th day and was given a three-week MC from the doctor as her still recovering blisters needed her to still be in quarantine.
However, even at home, the situation didn’t seem to get any better.
Due to the peeling of her skin, Glynisia found it difficult in standing and walking as her feet “felt extremely sensitive because of the raw and exposed skin.”
The worst? Losing her nails and hair, as a result from the aftereffects of HFMD.
She only decided to contact Dr Leong after she realised that the situation wasn’t getting any better. Her nails were turning white and separating from the nail bed.
Even her toenails were dislodging. Glynisia realised that the loss of her fingernails made it tough to do even the simple tasks such as opening a canned drink.
With things getting stuck to her fingers, it caused intense pain, which only got better after she wrapped surgical tape around her fingernails.
Glynisia cried at the lost of her hair, which fell in clumps. Her doctor then assured her that “it would all come to pass.”
By late May that, Glynisia’s situation changed for the better, as her nails started growing back. She managed to see the light in all this, stating that “time does indeed heal all wounds.”
Dr Leong Hoe Nam from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital talked to The Straits Times about Glynisia’s severe symptoms, specifically the falling hair and fingernails.
It’s quite rare for adults to contract the disease, as most of them would have had previous exposure to the virus, and therefore, protection from it.
However, repeated exposure to the infection often results in harsher symptoms.
Dr Leong explains how this works:
When you acquire HFMD from the public, it would have been a one-off exposure, giving you one dose of the virus. However when you acquire HFMD from a family member, it would be repeated exposure, and multiple doses, resulting in (harsher effects of the) disease. Ms Yeo acquired the infection from her child, who she looked after, thus (receiving) multiple doses.
What about the falling fingernails and hair? Dr Leong’s explanation is that the fingernails fell of because HFMD affects the nail beds, therefore destroying the nails.
The hair loss — similar to that experienced after pregnancy — was merely triggered by stress.
Source: The Straits Times, Images: ST screengrabs