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Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease (HFMD) is a fairly common viral infection that affects children under the age of five. However, in rare cases, it can also occur in adults.

What causes HFMD?

HFMD is caused by an infection associated with certain types of Enteroviruses.

Is there a certain age group that is affected by HFMD?

While it can occur in adults, Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease tends to occur more in children under five years of age.

What time of year is this most common for HFMD?

HFMD can occur at any time during the year, but it is more common in summer and fall.

Toddler with hand , foot and mouth disease

What are the symptoms of HFMD?

Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease include:

  • Sores in the mouth
  • Blisters on the palms of hands and soles of feet
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite/Reduced appetite
  • Poor drinking

*Because of painful mouth sores and/or a sore throat, children may experience dehydration due to difficulty swallowing.

Is HFMD contagious? How is it spread?

HFMD is contagious and can spread to others via:

  • Close contact with someone who is infected
  • Contact with feces
  • Contact with items that an infected person has touched (ex: picking up a phone, opening a door, etc.)
  • The air (ex: sneezing)

In general, someone who is infected with HFMD will be the most contagious during that first week. However, some people can be contagious for as long as several days to weeks after symptoms have dissipated. The best way to avoid HFMD is to maintain proper hygiene. One of the biggest things adults can do is ensure that they wash their hands frequently. If you have children, or if your child is infected with HFMD, ensure that you disinfect all toys, surfaces, and other soiled items frequently.

When should my child see a doctor?

Your child should see a doctor if your child is drinking very poorly and not urinating well.

How is hand-foot-and-mouth treated?

HFMD is treated with non-prescription medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to alleviate the pain. It is extremely important that children drink enough fluids to stay hydrated. Currently, there is no vaccine to protect against the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease.

About Travis Honeycutt, MD

Dr. Honeycutt is a board-certified pediatrician with WakeMed Physician Practices. He specializes in pediatric intensive care and inpatient pediatrics and has extensive experience in providing medical care in developing countries.