Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is an illness that causes
sores in or on the mouth and on the hands, feet, and sometimes the buttocks and legs.
The sores may be painful. The illness usually doesn't last more than a week or so.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is common in children but can also occur in adults. It can occur at any time of year but is most
common in the summer and fall.
not the same as other diseases that have similar names:
foot-and-mouth disease (sometimes called
hoof-and-mouth disease) or
mad cow disease. These diseases almost always occur in
What causes hand-foot-and-mouth disease?
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is caused by a virus called an
The virus spreads easily
through coughing and sneezing. It can also spread through infected stool, such as when you change a diaper or when a young child gets stool on his or her hands and then touches objects that other children put in their mouths. Often the disease breaks out
within a community.
It usually takes 3 to 6 days for a person to get symptoms
of hand-foot-and-mouth disease after being exposed to the virus. This is called
the incubation period.
What are the symptoms?
At first your child may
feel tired, get a sore throat, or have a fever of around
101°F (38°C) to
103°F (39°C). Then in a day or
two, sores or blisters may appear in or on the mouth and on the hands, feet, and
sometimes the buttocks. In some cases a skin rash may appear before the blisters do. The blisters may break open and crust over.
The sores and
blisters usually go away in a week or so.
In some cases there are no symptoms, or they are very mild. Parents may get the disease from their children and not even realize it.
How is hand-foot-and-mouth disease diagnosed?
doctor can tell if your child has hand-foot-and-mouth disease by the symptoms
you describe and by looking at the sores and blisters. Tests usually aren't needed.
How is it treated?
usually doesn't need treatment. You can
use home care to help relieve your child's symptoms.
Offer your child plenty of cool fluids to help with sore throat. Cold foods such as flavored ice pops and ice cream also may help.
Don't give your child
acidic or spicy foods and drinks, such as salsa or orange juice. These foods
can make mouth sores more painful.
For pain and fever, give your child acetaminophen
(such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil). Do not
give your child aspirin. It has been linked to
Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
Children are most likely to spread the disease during the
first week of the illness. But the virus can stay in the stool for several months and may spread to others. To help prevent the disease from spreading:
child goes to day care or school, talk to the staff about when your child can
Wash your hands frequently. It is especially important to wash your hands after you touch a blister or change the diaper of an infected child.
Teach all family members to wash their hands
often. It is especially important to wash your hands after you change the
diaper of an infected child.
Don't let your child
share toys or give kisses while he or she is infected.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
This CDC website has up-to-date information about hand-foot-and-mouth disease, a common viral infection.
KidsHealth for Parents, Children, and
Nemours Home Office
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Jacksonville, FL 32256
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
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How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.