The doctor is in: Tomato flu explained in detail

What exactly is tomato fever or ‘hand, foot and mouth disease’ (HFMD) and how to prevent it

In order to treat the virus, there is no particular treatment required. However, the symptoms usually subside in seven to ten days.
In order to treat the virus, there is no particular treatment required. However, the symptoms usually subside in seven to ten days.

By Dr Tarun Sahni

What is tomato fever and how is it caused?
Tomato fever or ‘Tomato Flu’ or HFMD (hand, foot and mouth disease) is a viral illness where an individual suffers from rashes, and blisters which are red and resonates with tomatoes. Tomato fever is highly contagious.

However, the sickness does not pose any substantial risk to life. Tomato fever is believed to be caused by a virus. It is still considered to be an unidentified type of fever. Some suspect it as an aftereffect of certain diseases spread by mosquito bites, such as chikungunya (a viral infection causing fever and joint inflammation) or dengue fever (a viral infection causing fever, rashes, and body pain).

Additionally, others believe that is caused due to intestinal viruses. Blisters of tomato fever are often confused with that of chickenpox.

But one should note that chickenpox eruptions do not develop under the palms and feet. In contrast, one affected by tomato flu may get blisters under the palms and feet.

It is more related to another viral infection seen in children known as hand, foot and mouth disease caused by the Coxsackie virus. One may develop similar blisters under the palms, feet, and inside the mouth in hand, foot, and mouth disease as well.

Does it have any distinguishing symptoms?
Some of the common symptoms include red blisters, rashes, skin irritation and dehydration. A person with tomato fever may also experience fatigue or a change of the colour of hands and legs. Apart from this, dehydration, tiredness, joint pain, stomach ache, high fever, diarrhoea and nausea may also feature.

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How does it spread?
This disease can spread through intestinal viruses or can be a side effect of dengue or chikungunya. The tomato virus is contagious, just like any other flu. Since the infection can spread quickly, the affected person must be maintained in isolation. Preventing sick youngsters from scratching the blisters caused by the flu is critical. In order to treat the virus, there is no particular treatment required. However, the symptoms usually subside in seven to ten days.

Who is susceptible to it?
While the world is slowly trying to get back to normalcy after the Covid-19 wreaked havoc, other infections and viruses are spreading including monkeypox and tomato fever or tomato flu, which is spreading in India at a rapid speed.

Experts have stated that the virus generally affects children below the age of five. However, adults too are susceptible to the disease. The disease is normally less dangerous.

Should the general public be worried about it?
While the number of cases of tomato fever is increasing at a large rate. Currently, no deaths have been reported. Most of the symptoms reported are mild and there have been no cases of hospitalisation. The symptoms usually subside in five to seven days. People need to adhere to the required precautions and preventive steps.

What are the general precautions to be taken?
There is no specific treatment for tomato fever. Below are some common precautions:

  • Even though the virus is not dangerous and may be treated, if a kid develops any signs of a fever, they should be taken to the doctor immediately.
  • If a kid exhibits any of the symptoms, parents should seek emergency medical attention.
  • Children exposed to the virus should drink plenty of warm water to keep hydrated.
  • The blisters and rashes should not be scratched.
  • Maintain a clean and healthy environment.
  • Take a warm shower or bath.
  • Maintain a distance from the sick individual.
  • Instruct the youngster to get plenty of rest to avoid the disease’s long-term effects.

Dr Tarun Sahni is senior consultant, internal medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi

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