What is it?
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common, contagious illness caused by different viruses. It typically affects infants and children under age 5, but older kids and adults can catch it as well.
From the time the child is exposed to hand, foot, and mouth disease, it takes 3 to 6 days for the first symptoms to show up. This is called the incubation period. It usually starts with a fever, sore throat or runny nose much like the common cold—but then a rash with tiny blisters may start to show up on the following body sites:
- In the mouth (inner cheeks, gums, sides of the tongue, top of the mouth)
- Palms of hands
- Soles of feet
Note: One, few, or all of these body sites may have blisters. Symptoms are the worst in the first few days but are usually completely gone within a week. Peeling of the fingers and toes after 1 to 2 weeks can happen, but it is harmless.
Is it Contagious?
You are generally most contagious during the first week of illness. But, children with hand, foot, and mouth disease may shed the virus from the respiratory tract (nose, mouth and lungs) for 1-3 weeks and in the stool for weeks to months after the infection starts.
How long does it last?
The fever can be high, but often mild. Blisters on the hands and feet, and ulcers or blisters in the mouth appear 1-2 days after the first symptoms and may last for 2-7 days.
What is the treatment plan?
There isn’t any medicine to treat or cure hand, foot, and mouth disease. Using acetaminophen or ibuprofen alternatively can help with the pain. Do not wake your child up to give medications, only if they are uncomfortable treat them. Call your pediatrician if your child’s fever lasts more than 3 days or if he or she is not drinking fluids.
Avoid dehydration: Children with hand, foot, and mouth disease need to drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated. Call your pediatrician now or go to the ER if you suspect your child is dehydrated.
How can I help prevent and control the spread of hand, foot, and mouth disease?
- Teach your children to cover their mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing with a tissue. Teach everyone to wash their hands right after using tissues or having contact with mucus. Change or cover contaminated clothing.
- Wash your hands after changing diapers. Parents can spread the virus to other surfaces by coming in contact with any feces, blister fluid or saliva.
- Clean, rinse, and sanitize toys
- Prevent sharing of food, drinks, and personal items that may touch your child’s mouth, such as eating utensils, toothbrushes, and towels.
- Protect other children in the house. Make sure they do not come in close contact with the child who is infected. Kissing, hugging, and sharing cups and utensils can spread the infection quickly. If your children share a room, separate them while the sick child is contagious.