What you need to know about Hand, foot and mouth disease!
Hand, foot, and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by viruses. A person infected with one of these viruses is contagious, which means that they can pass the virus to other people.
The virus can spread to others through an infected person’s
- Nose and throat secretions, such as saliva, drool, or nasal mucus
- Fluid from blisters or scabs
- Feces (poop)
People with hand, foot, and mouth disease are usually most contagious during the first week that they are sick. People can sometimes spread the virus to others for days or weeks after symptoms go away or if they have no symptoms at all.
How it spreads
You can get hand, foot, and mouth disease by
- Contact with respiratory droplets containing virus particlesafter a sick person coughs or sneezes
- Touching an infected personor making other close contact, like kissing, hugging, or sharing cups or eating utensils
- Touching an infected person’s feces, such as changing diapers, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Touching objects and surfacesthat have the virus on them, like doorknobs or toys, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
Rarely, you can also get the viruses by swallowing recreational water, such as water in swimming pools. This can happen if the water is not properly treated with chlorine and becomes contaminated with feces from a person who has hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is Common
- In summer and fallin the U.S., but you can get it any time of year.
- In schools and daycares. Children should stay home while they have symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus family.
Common causes of hand, foot, and mouth disease are:
- Coxsackievirus A16is typically the most common cause of hand, foot, and mouth disease in the United States. Other coxsackieviruses can also cause the illness.
- Coxsackievirus A6 can also cause HFMD and the symptoms may be more severe.
- Enterovirus 71 (EV-A71) has been associated with cases and outbreaks in East and Southeast Asia. Although rare, EV-A71 has been associated with more severe diseases such as encephalitis (swelling of the brain).
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease usually include fever, mouth sores, and skin rash commonly found on the hands, mouth, and/or feet.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is common in infants and children younger than 5 years old. Most children have mild symptoms for 7 to 10 days.
Fever and flu-like symptoms
Children often get a fever and other flu-like symptoms three to six days after they catch the virus. Symptoms may include:
- Eating or drinking less
- Sore throat
- Feeling unwell
Other symptoms may appear over the next few days.
One or two days after the fever starts, your child may get painful mouth sores (herpangina). These sores usually start as small red spots, often in the back of their mouth, that blister and can become painful.
Signs that swallowing may be painful for your child:
- Not eating or drinking
- Drooling more than usual
- Only wanting to drink cold fluids
Your child may get a skin rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It may also show up on the knees, elbows, buttocks, or genital area.
The rash usually looks like flat, red spots, sometimes with blisters. Fluid in the blister and the resulting scab that forms as the blister heals may contain the virus that causes hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Keep blisters or scabs clean and avoid touching them.
Treat symptoms at home
Often the infection is mild, and symptoms can be treated at home. However, sometimes you need to see a healthcare provider.
Treat Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
When to see a healthcare provider
See a healthcare provider if
- Your child is not drinking enough to stay hydrated
- Your child’s fever lasts longer than 3 days
- Your child has a weakened immune system (body’s ability to fight germs and sickness)
- Symptoms are severe
- Symptoms do not improve after 10 days
- Your child is very young, especially younger than 6 months
Diagnosing hand, foot, and mouth disease
Healthcare providers can usually tell if someone has hand, foot, and mouth disease by examining the patient and considering
- How old the patient is
- What symptoms the patient has
- How the rash and mouth sores look
A healthcare provider may sometimes collect samples from the patient’s throat, blister, or feces (poop), and then send them to a laboratory to test for the virus.
Prevent Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is very contagious.
You can help prevent catching or spreading hand, foot, and mouth disease by following simple steps.
Wash your hands
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Always wash your hands:
- After changing diapers
- After using the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
Help children wash their hands. Teach them how to wash their hands and make sure they wash them often.
Learn more about handwashing for your family.
Clean and disinfect
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and shared items, including toys and doorknobs.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
You can get infected with hand, foot, and mouth disease if you have the virus on your hands and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. To lessen your chance of getting sick, don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with sick people
Avoid touching someone who has hand, foot, and mouth disease, such as hugging or kissing them.
Stay home if you are sick with hand, foot, and mouth disease. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are not sure when you should return to work or when your child should return to school or daycare.
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There is no vaccine in the United States to protect against the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease. Researchers are working to develop vaccines to help prevent hand, foot, and mouth disease in the future.