Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease: Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease


Discover comprehensive information about hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), a highly contagious viral infection commonly affecting young children. This blog post covers the definition of HFMD, its symptoms, methods of diagnosis, how it spreads, possible complications, prevention strategies, and treatment options. Find out when to seek medical attention and learn practical tips to protect your child from HFMD.


Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a prevalent viral infection primarily seen in young children, especially those aged five and below. However, teenagers and adults can also contract this contagious illness caused by enteroviruses, including coxsackievirus A16 and Enterovirus A71. This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive overview of HFMD, including its symptoms, prevention measures, and available treatments, to help parents and caregivers navigate this common childhood infection.

What Is Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is characterized by a blister-like rash that appears on the hands, feet, mouth, and sometimes other areas like the buttocks and genital region. The infection spreads rapidly through various modes of transmission, such as saliva, sneezes, cough droplets, nasal discharge, feces, fluid in blisters, and contact with contaminated items. It is crucial to note that hand, foot, and mouth disease should not be confused with foot-and-mouth disease, which affects animals like pigs, sheep, and cattle.

Signs and Symptoms of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease:

After an initial infection, symptoms typically emerge within 3 to 6 days, known as the incubation period. Common signs and symptoms of HFMD include fever, sore throat, headache, runny nose, poor appetite, fatigue, swollen neck lymph nodes, irritability in infants and toddlers, painful mouth ulcers, and the appearance of tiny blisters or red spots on the hands, feet, or diaper area. These symptoms often manifest in stages, with fever and sore throat preceding the development of blisters and mouth ulcers.

Diagnosis of HFMD:

Pediatricians can diagnose HFMD through a physical examination, focusing on the presence of mouth sores, blisters, rashes, and ulcers in the mouth and body. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, throat and stool samples may be collected for laboratory testing. These tests help confirm the presence of enteroviruses and determine the most suitable treatment approach.

How Is It Spread and What Are the Complications?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease rarely lead to serious complications. However, Enterovirus 71 poses a slightly higher risk compared to other HFMD viruses. Although rare, potential complications include fingernail and toenail loss, viral meningitis (swelling of the brain and spinal cord membranes), encephalitis (brain swelling), myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), and dehydration due to difficulties in swallowing caused by mouth sores.

Prevention and Treatment for Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease:

While there is no specific cure for HFMD, most children recover without complications within 7 to 10 days. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms and promoting comfort. Early in the disease, healthcare providers may prescribe medication to relieve symptoms. Additionally, there are several effective at-home treatments, including:

  • Medicated syrups or lozenges to reduce sore throat pain.
  • Gargling warm salt water to soothe the mouth.
  • Topical ointments (prescription or over-the-counter) to alleviate blisters and rashes.
  • Pain relief medication, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, if the child is in pain or discomfort.
  • Avoid puncturing or squeezing blisters; let them dry naturally.
  • Ensure your child gets plenty of rest by keeping them at home.
  • Provide ample fluids to prevent dehydration. Cold drinks, ice pops, and ice cream can soothe the mouth and throat.
  • Offer soft, easy-to-swallow foods to accommodate painful swallowing.
  • Avoid giving your child spicy or acidic foods and drinks, as they may exacerbate sores and cause discomfort.

When to Seek Medical Attention:

Consult a doctor if HFMD symptoms persist beyond 10 days or worsen. Additionally, seek medical attention if your child has a weakened immune system, experiences a fever lasting more than 3 days, is under 6 months old, shows signs of a stiff neck, chest pain, refuses to eat, experiences dizziness or difficulty walking, or exhibits swelling, pus, or redness around any sore. Dehydration indicators, such as drowsiness, paleness, weight loss, reduced urination, or cold hands and feet, also warrant immediate medical attention.

How to Prevent Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease:

Preventing the spread of HFMD involves implementing specific precautions. Follow these steps to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Wear a mask when sick to prevent the spreading of the virus.
  • Avoid kissing or hugging an infected child.
  • Practice frequent hand washing, especially after touching blisters or changing diapers. If water is unavailable, use alcohol-based sanitizers or wipes.
  • Educate children about personal hygiene and discourage finger and object-to-mouth contact.
  • Avoid sharing cups, utensils, and personal items with others.
  • Clean and disinfect toys, pacifiers, utensils, and high-touch surfaces regularly using soap and water.
  • Wash your child’s clothes and bedding thoroughly.

Keep your child at home while infected to prevent further transmission. Typically, children are no longer contagious after their fever subsides and blisters or wounds have healed.


Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common childhood viral infection that can cause discomfort and inconvenience. By recognizing the symptoms, taking preventive measures, and following appropriate treatments, parents and caregivers can help their children recover and minimize the risk of transmission. Stay vigilant, seek medical attention when necessary, and prioritize good hygiene practices to protect your child’s well-being.