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Hand Foot and Mouth Disease: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Jun 2

What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease is a really common viral infection in kids. It is caused by one of the enteroviruses, usually coxsackie A16 (it is not important for you to know which virus your child has).

Who can get hand foot and mouth?

It tends to affect preschoolers and younger children less than 10 years old. Hand, foot and mouth disease is highly contagious and easily spread through contact with the fluid/blisters or droplets spread through sneezing and coughing. Unfortunately, you can get HFMD more than once.

Hand, foot and mouth disease in humans is completely different to hand, foot and mouth disease in animals they are not related, and humans can’t catch Hand Foot and Mouth diseases from animals.

Hand foot and mouth symptoms

Symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease may start with a regular cold, including fever, sore throat, tiredness, and a runny nose. Afterwards, a typical rash appears, consisting of white, oval-shaped blisters that are not itchy (unlike chickenpox). These blisters often develop on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and in or around the mouth. A less common rash with a red, scaly appearance may also appear on the arms, legs, mouth, and bottom. The rash typically lasts for 7-10 days.

Other symptoms to look out for:

- Dehydration (children with mouth blisters may be off their food and/or drink)

- Secondary bacterial infection of the rash or secondary eczema

Hand Foot and Mouth is usually a mild illness, and your child will recover without treatment within days /weeks - General measures to make your child feel better pain relief with paracetamol or ibuprofen if they are in pain/uncomfortable

- Fluid, water, oral rehydration solution

- Leave the blisters to dry up on their own- do not pop them

- As Hand Foot and Mouth is due to a virus- Antibiotics do not work

- If your child is unwell with a fever and a rash that does not blanch (turn skincolour/white when you press on it)— it is important to seek help as this may be a sign of meningococcal infection

Hand foot and mouth treatment

There is no specific treatment for hand, foot, and mouth disease, as it is caused by a viral infection. Most cases of the illness are mild and resolve on their own within 7-10 days.

How to prevent Hand Foot and Mouth?

- Hand washing is important

- Try not to share cutlery, cups, toothbrushes etc with your child or other family members

- The virus can also be present in your child’s poo for several weeks so good hand hygiene is vital

- As it is highly contagious, keep your child home from childcare or school until the fluid in the blisters dries up and your child no longer has a fever

The good news is, hand foot and mouth is not known to pose a risk to pregnant women or their unborn babies.

Hand, foot and mouth disease in children

This article was written by our Pediatrician Expert Dr Lexi Frydenberg. To learn more about your little one's development purchase our Parenting Portal; your Expert Guide to Parenthood or secure your spot at one of our upcoming parental education masterclasses.


Kids Health Info Podcast- Common rashes and skin conditions in kids

Disclaimer: The content in this article is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for

professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care professional. Moreover views expressed here are my own and do not  necessarily reflect those of my employers or other official organisations.

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