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.
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ChickenpoxChickenpox (varicella) is a highly contagious infection that typically affects children. Symptoms and signs include an itchy red blistering rash that forms first on the torso and then spreads to the extremities. Treatment may incorporate Tylenol or Advil for fever, IV fluids for dehydration, antibiotics for bacterial skin infections, calamine lotion, cool compresses and baths, and Benadryl, Claritin, or Zyrtec for itch relief.
Hand, Foot, and Mouth DiseaseHand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a viral illness that is common in children. Symptoms and signs include fever and a blister-like rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet and blisters in the mouth. Treatment focuses on alleviating the symptoms of the infection.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.