Symptoms and Signs of Chickenpox vs. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 6/3/2019

Doctor's Notes on Chickenpox vs. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Chickenpox and hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) are both contagious viral illnesses that commonly affect children and cause a rash. The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes chickenpox, while the Coxsackievirus typically causes HFMD.

Symptoms and signs of chickenpox and hand, foot, and mouth disease that are similar include rashes that often form blisters, feeling unwell (malaise), and fever. A difference is the chickenpox rash starts on the torso and spreads outward over the next 7 to 10 days toward the head, arms, and legs, while the HFMD rash develops mainly in the hands, feet, and mouth. Complications of both illnesses include encephalitis and dehydration. Complications of chickenpox also include skin infection, pneumonia, neurologic problems, and Reye's syndrome if a child takes aspirin to treat the symptoms. A complication of HFMD also includes viral meningitis.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.