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What is Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease?
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is an illness that causes sores in or on the mouth and on the hands, feet, and sometimes the buttocks and legs. The sores may be painful. The illness usually doesn’t last more than a week or so.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is common in children but can also occur in adults. It can occur at any time of year but is most common in the summer and fall.
It is not the same as other diseases that have similar names: foot-and-mouth disease (sometimes called hoof-and-mouth disease) or mad cow disease. These diseases almost always occur in animals.
Symptoms of Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease may cause all of the following signs and symptoms or just some of them. They include:
- Sore throat
- Feeling of being unwell (malaise)
- Painful, red, blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks
- A red rash, without itching but sometimes with blistering, on the palms, soles and sometimes the buttocks
- Irritability in infants and toddlers
- Loss of appetite
The usual period from initial infection to the onset of signs and symptoms (incubation period) is three to six days. A fever is often the first sign of hand-foot-and-mouth disease, followed by a sore throat and sometimes a poor appetite and malaise.
One or two days after the fever begins, painful sores may develop in the mouth or throat. A rash on the hands and feet and possibly on the buttocks can follow within one or two days.
How is Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease diagnosed?
A doctor can tell if your child has hand-foot-and-mouth disease by the symptoms you describe and by looking at the sores and blisters. Tests usually aren’t needed.
How to Prevent Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is spread from person to person through nose and throat secretions (such as saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus), blister fluid, or stool of infected persons. You can lower your risk of being infected by
- Washing your hands often with soap and water
- Disinfecting dirty surfaces and soiled items
- Avoiding close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with infected persons
Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease Treatments
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.