Hand-foot-and-mouth disease — a mild, contagious viral infection common in young children — is characterized by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus.
There's no specific treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Frequent hand-washing and avoiding close contact with people who are infected with hand-foot-and-mouth disease may help reduce your child's risk of infection.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease may cause all of the following signs and symptoms or just some of them. They include:
The usual period from initial infection to the onset of signs and symptoms (incubation period) is three to six days. A fever is often the first sign of hand-foot-and-mouth disease, followed by a sore throat and sometimes a poor appetite and feeling unwell.
One or two days after the fever begins, painful sores may develop in the front of the mouth or throat. A rash on the hands and feet and possibly on the buttocks can follow within one or two days.
Sores that develop in the back of the mouth and throat may suggest that your child is infected with a related viral illness called herpangina. Other features of herpangina include a sudden high fever and in some instances, seizure. Sores that develop on the hands, feet or other parts of the body are very rare.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is usually a minor illness causing only a few days of fever and relatively mild signs and symptoms. Contact your doctor if mouth sores or a sore throat keep your child from drinking fluids. And contact your doctor if after a few days, your child's signs and symptoms worsen.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease often causes a rash of painful, red, blister-like lesions on the palms of the hands.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease often causes a rash of painful, red, blister-like lesions on the soles of the feet.
The most common cause of hand-foot-and-mouth disease is infection with the coxsackievirus A16. The coxsackievirus belongs to a group of viruses called nonpolio enteroviruses. Other types of enteroviruses sometimes cause hand-foot-and-mouth disease.
Oral ingestion is the main source of coxsackievirus infection and hand-foot-and-mouth disease. The illness spreads by person-to-person contact with an infected person's:
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is most common in children in child care settings because of frequent diaper changes and toilet training, and because little children often put their hands in their mouths.
Although your child is most contagious with hand-foot-and-mouth disease during the first week of the illness, the virus can remain in his or her body for weeks after the signs and symptoms are gone. That means your child still can infect others.
Some people, especially adults, can pass the virus without showing any signs or symptoms of the disease.
Outbreaks of the disease are more common in summer and autumn in the United States and other temperate climates. In tropical climates, outbreaks occur year-round.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease isn't related to foot-and-mouth disease (sometimes called hoof-and-mouth disease), which is an infectious viral disease found in farm animals. You can't contract hand-foot-and-mouth disease from pets or other animals, and you can't transmit it to them.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease primarily affects children younger than age 10, often those under 5 years. Children in child care centers are especially susceptible to outbreaks of hand-foot-and-mouth disease because the infection spreads by person-to-person contact, and young children are the most susceptible.
Children usually develop immunity to hand-foot-and-mouth disease as they get older by building antibodies after exposure to the virus that causes the disease. However, it's possible for adolescents and adults to get the disease.
The most common complication of hand-foot-and-mouth disease is dehydration. The illness can cause sores in the mouth and throat, making swallowing painful and difficult.
Watch closely to make sure your child frequently sips fluid during the course of the illness. If dehydration is severe, intravenous (IV) fluids may be necessary.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is usually a minor illness causing only a few days of fever and relatively mild signs and symptoms. A rare and sometimes serious form of the coxsackievirus can involve the brain and cause other complications:
Certain precautions can help to reduce the risk of infection with hand-foot-and-mouth disease:
Your doctor will likely be able to distinguish hand-foot-and-mouth disease from other types of viral infections by evaluating:
Your doctor may take a throat swab or stool specimen and send it to the laboratory to determine which virus caused the illness.
There's no specific treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Signs and symptoms of hand-foot-and-mouth disease usually clear up in seven to 10 days.
A topical oral anesthetic may help relieve the pain of mouth sores. Over-the-counter pain medications other than aspirin, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) may help relieve general discomfort.
Certain foods and beverages may irritate blisters on the tongue or in the mouth or throat. Try these tips to help make blister soreness less bothersome and eating and drinking more tolerable:
If your child is able to rinse without swallowing, swishing with warm salt water may be soothing. Have your child do this several times a day or as often as needed to help reduce the pain and inflammation of mouth and throat sores caused by hand-foot-and-mouth disease.
If you take your child to a doctor, make the most of your time by writing down information the doctor will need before you go, including:
Some questions you might want to ask your doctor include:
Some questions the doctor may ask include:
To help lessen discomfort, doctors often recommend: