Hand-foot-and-mouth disease

What is hand-foot-and-mouth disease?

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is an illness caused by a virus that results in a distinctive rash — small, blister-like bumps in the mouth, and on the hands and feet. The blisters may also appear in the diaper area and on the legs and arms. The lesions in the mouth usually appear on the tongue, the sides of the cheeks or near the throat.

What causes hand-foot-and-mouth disease? 

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is caused by a virus. The most common viruses that cause hand-foot-mouth-disease include the following:

  • Coxsackie virus
  • Other enteroviruses

This disease is very common in children, particularly children under the age of 10. It is seen most often in the summer and fall. The virus is usually spread through fecal-oral contact, although other modes of transmission have been reported. Good handwashing is necessary to help prevent the spread of the disease.

What are the symptoms of hand-foot-and-mouth disease? 

The following are the most common symptoms of hand-foot-and-mouth disease. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Blister-like bumps in the mouth (on the tongue, the cheeks, and near the throat and tonsils)
  • Blister-like bumps on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet; bumps may also be seen on the arms, legs, and diaper area
  • Mild fever

How is hand-foot-and-mouth disease diagnosed? 

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is usually diagnosed based on a complete history and physical examination of your child. The rash of hand-foot-mouth disease is unique, and usually allows for a diagnosis simply on physical examination.

Treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease: 

Specific treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health and medical history
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease is to help decrease the severity of the symptoms. Since it is a viral infection, antibiotics are ineffective. Treatment may include:

  • Increased fluid intake to prevent dehydration — provide cool, iced fluids in small amounts frequently
  • Acetaminophen for any fever

Proper handwashing is essential in helping to prevent the disease from being spread to other children.