Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease

What is hand-foot-and-mouth disease?

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is an illness caused by a virus that results in a distinctive rash. It causes small, blister like bumps in the mouth, and a rash on the palms of the 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 at the back of the throat.

What causes hand-foot-and-mouth disease?

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is caused by a virus. The most common viruses that cause it  include:

  • Coxsackievirus A16

  • Enterovirus A71

This disease is very common in children, particularly those 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 key to help prevent the spread of the disease.

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

The following are the most common symptoms of hand-foot-and-mouth disease:

  • Blister like bumps in the mouth (usually near the throat and tonsils)

  • Small blisters on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and the diaper area, and rash on the arms and legs.

  • Fever

  • Lack of appetite and generally not feeling well

How is hand-foot-and-mouth disease diagnosed?

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is usually diagnosed based on a history and physical exam of your child. The rash and mouth blisters of hand-foot-and-mouth disease are unique, and usually allow for a diagnosis simply on physical exam. Depending upon how severe the symptoms are, a throat or stool culture could be sent to the lab for testing.

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

The goal of treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease is to help manage symptoms. Since it is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not effective. Expect symptoms of the disease to resolve within a week. The treatment of symptoms may include :

  • Increased fluid intake to prevent dehydration--provide cool, iced fluids in small amounts frequently

  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever or pain

  • Anesthetic mouth rinses or sprays may be used to help lessen the mouth pain but ask your child's healthcare provider first. Don't use regular mouthwash as it may sting.

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