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Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

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Source: National Institutes of Health

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is often confused with foot-and-mouth disease (also called hoof-and-mouth disease), a disease of cattle, sheep, and swine. The two diseases are caused, however, by different viruses and are not related.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)

Español: Información general sobre la enfermedad de manos, pies y boca

Overview

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old. However, it can sometimes occur in adults. Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease include fever, blister-like sores in the mouth (herpangina), and a skin rash.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus genus (group). This group of viruses includes polioviruses, coxsackieviruses, echoviruses, and enteroviruses.

  • Coxsackievirus A16 is the most common cause of hand, foot, and mouth disease in the United States, but other coxsackieviruses have been associated with the illness.
  • Enterovirus 71 has also been associated with hand, foot, and mouth disease and outbreaks of this disease.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is often confused with foot-and-mouth disease (also called hoof-and-mouth disease), a disease of cattle, sheep, and swine. However, the two diseases are caused by different viruses and are not related. Humans do not get the animal disease, and animals do not get the human disease. For information on foot-and-mouth disease, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Signs and Symptoms

Hand, foot, and mouth disease usually starts with a fever, poor appetite, a vague feeling of being unwell (malaise), and sore throat. One or 2 days after fever starts, painful sores usually develop in the mouth (herpangina). They begin as small red spots that blister and that often become ulcers. The sores are often in the back of the mouth. A skin rash develops over 1 to 2 days. The rash has flat or raised red spots, sometimes with blisters. The rash is usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; it may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area.

Some people, especially young children, may get dehydrated if they are not able to swallow enough liquids because of painful mouth sores.

Persons infected with the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease may not get all the symptoms of the disease. They may only get the mouth sore or skin rash.

Prevention

caption Source: CDC. There is no vaccine to protect against the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease.

A person can lower their risk of being infected by

  • Washing hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and
    using the toilet. Visit CDC’s Clean Hands Save Lives! for more information.
  • Disinfecting dirty surfaces and soiled items, including toys. First wash the items with
    soap and water; then disinfect them with a solution of chlorine bleach
    (made by mixing 1 tablespoon of bleach and 4 cups of water).
  • Avoiding close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people with hand, foot, and mouth disease.

If a person has mouth sores, it might be painful to swallow. However, drinking liquids is important to stay hydrated. If a person cannot swallow enough liquids, these may need to be given through an IV in their vein.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease. However, some things can be done to relieve symptoms, such as

  • Taking over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever (Caution: Aspirin should not be given to children.)
  • Using mouthwashes or sprays that numb mouth pain

Persons who are concerned about their symptoms should contact their health care provider.

Glossary

Citation

(2012). Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/51cbf3d17896bb431f6ae2ca