- How to Prevent
What Is Hand Foot and Mouth Disease?
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a viral infection that causes sores in the mouth, hands, feet, buttocks, and genitals. The infection tends to affect children, but adults can also contract the illness.
The virus that causes hand, foot, and mouth disease spreads via the bodily fluids of an infected person such as from mucus, saliva, fluid from one of the sores, and fecal matter. The virus is most contagious in the first week of illness, but it can live in the body after a person has recovered, and patients may be contagious for weeks or even months after symptoms have gone away.
What Are Symptoms of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease?
Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease include:
- Sore mouth or throat
- Feeling unwell (malaise)
- Lesions that look like red spots, bumps, or blisters form in the mouth on the inside of the cheeks, on the tongue, and/or hard palate
- Lesions grow rapidly and form fluid-filled sacs (vesicles) that may have a red halo
- Sores in the mouth can make swallowing painful
- Sores may also occur on the hands, feet, buttocks, and genitalia
- Fever may be present for 24-48 hours
- Vomiting (rarely)
What Causes Hand Foot and Mouth Disease?
How Is Hand Foot and Mouth Disease Diagnosed?
Hand, foot, and mouth disease can usually be diagnosed with a history and physical exam. Testing is usually not necessary, but some tests may be indicated, such as:
- Tests to isolate the specific virus – swabs may be taken from lesions or stool samples
- Blood tests for antibody levels
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
- Blood cultures for bacteria
What Is the Treatment for Hand Foot and Mouth Disease?
There is no specific antiviral medication used to treat hand, foot, and mouth disease, and the illness usually goes away on its own. Treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms and may include:
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Avoiding spicy or acidic foods
- Fever reducers
- Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Anesthetic mouthwashes or sprays to relieve the pain of oral lesions
- Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- Intravenous (IV) hydration if the patient is dehydrated
- Intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) for severe infection
What Are Complications of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease?
Severe complications of hand, foot, and mouth disease are uncommon.
The most common complication of hand, foot, and mouth disease is painful oral lesions that can make it difficult to eat or drink. In some cases, patients may become dehydrated due to the inability to drink fluids.
In rare cases, aseptic meningitis accompanies coxsackievirus-induced hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Certain neurological complications may occur with certain strains of the coxsackievirus (EV-71), such as polio-like syndrome, encephalitis, encephalomyelitis, aseptic meningitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, acute cerebellar ataxia, acute transverse myelitis, opsomyoclonus syndrome, and benign intracranial hypertension.
How Do You Prevent Hand Foot and Mouth Disease?
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by a virus, and you can prevent the spread of infection by washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after touching anything.
Regularly disinfect anything your child might touch including toys, tables, sinks, doorknobs, and other surfaces.
Children who are sick should stay home from school or daycare to prevent spreading the virus to others.