Tests & Procedures



Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease

What is hand-foot-mouth disease?

Hand-foot-mouth disease is an illness caused by a virus that results in a distinctive rash - small, blister-like bumps occur in the mouth, and a rash appears hands and feet. The rash may also appear in the diaper area and on the legs and arms. The lesions in the mouth usually appear on the tongue, the sides of the cheeks, or near the throat.

What causes hand-foot-mouth disease?

Hand-foot-mouth disease is caused by a virus. The most common viruses that cause hand-foot-mouth-disease include the following:

  • Coxsackie viruses
  • Other enteroviruses

This disease is very common in children, particularly children younger than age 10. It is seen most often in the summer and fall. The virus is usually spread through fecal-oral contact, although other modes of transmission have been reported. Good hand washing is necessary to help prevent the spread of the disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of hand-foot-mouth disease?

The following are the most common symptoms of hand-foot-mouth disease. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Blister-like bumps in the mouth (on the tongue, the cheeks, and near the throat and tonsils)
  • A rash on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet; bumps may also be seen on the arms, legs, and diaper area
  • Mild fever

How is hand-foot-mouth disease diagnosed?

Hand-foot-mouth disease is usually diagnosed based on a complete history and physical examination of your child. The rash and mouth blisters of hand-foot-mouth disease are unique, and usually allow for a diagnosis simply on physical examination. A swab of the throat or stool could be sent to the laboratory for testing, but results often take two weeks or more.

What is the treatment for hand-foot-mouth disease?

There is no specific treatment for hand-foot-mouth disease so your child's physician will determine a course of action based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment for hand-foot-mouth disease is to help decrease the severity of the symptoms. Since it is a viral infection, antibiotics are ineffective. Treatment may include:

  • Increased fluid intake to prevent dehydration - provide cool, iced fluids in small amounts frequently
  • Acetaminophen for any fever
  • Anesthetic mouth rinses or sprays can help to lessen the mouth pain

Proper hand washing is essential in helping to prevent the disease from being spread to other children. Cleaning contaminated surfaces with sanitzers and disinfectants will help. Avoid close contact with infected people. An infected person can still transmit viruses for 1-2 weeks after they no longer have symptoms.

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Online Resources of Infectious Diseases

Last reviewed: 5/21/2013