Hand sanitiser not as effective as soap to counter HFMD, expert reminds parents, teachers

Wee (left) listening to Dr Ooi's explanation regarding HFMD during the 'ShallWeeTalk' live session today (May 28, 2022).

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By Ling Hui

KUCHING, May 28: While alcohol-based hand sanitisers are effective at inactivating Covid-19, they may not be as useful in tackling hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) that is common in young children.

Senior consultant paediatrician of Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) Dr Ooi Mong How said normal hand soaps or hand shampoos widely available in pharmacies and supermarkets could come more in handy, instead.


“Covid-19 can be killed (or inactivated) with alcohol-based hand sanitisers, but to HFMD viruses, the hand sanitisers are not as effective.

“Hand sanitisers cannot 100 per cent destroy the HFMD viruses as they are not that responsive to alcohol. Instead, normal soap with clear water is more effective,” he said during Kuching South City Council (MKBS) mayor Dato Wee Hong Seng’s ShallWeeTalk Facebook live today.

Dr Ooi, who is also an expert in the research of infectious diseases, particularly, infectious diseases caused by viruses, said parents and teachers especially in childcare centres and kindergartens ought to take note of this.

He also said that toddlers and children from six months to five-years-old are part of the high-risk group when it comes to HFMD.

Transmission-wise, he said, HFMD usually spreads through one’s saliva, air droplets, feces or coming into contact with objects or surfaces with the virus through eyes, nose or mouth.

Once infected, symptoms include rashes appearing on the hands, feet and ulcers in the mouth, but not usually with fevers, said Dr Ooi.

“Generally, children with HFMD would not have any fever. If they have a fever, it should not last longer than a day. If your child (with HFMD) has a fever for more than 48 hours, bring them to see a doctor.

“Also, if there’s a fever, it should not be very high. If the fever is higher than 38.5 degrees Celsius, bring them to see a doctor. These are all important warning signs of potential life-threatening complications,” he said.

HFMD has once again come under the national limelight as the number of HFMD cases in Malaysia has doubled since pre-pandemic times, as announced by Health Ministry Khairy Jamaluddin on Thursday (May 26).

The current spike of HFMD cases, Dr Ooi said, is in fact within the expectation of experts once the SOPs are lifted, as children have not been allowed to go to classes or be in contact with the outside world much ever since the start of the pandemic.

He however assured that HFMD is not a new disease with unknown factors as it has been around globally since the mid-1960s, for over 60 years now. — DayakDaily