Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease



What is hand-foot-and-mouth disease?


Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a common childhood viral infection that begins with cold/flu like symptoms such as a low-grade fever, a sore throat, or a cough. This is followed by painful mouth ulcers and then a blistering skin rash on the hands and feet.

It is most commonly seen in children under 10 years old but can also spread to older children, adolescents, and adults. The symptoms can be more severe in infants and young children.

While the infected person may feel miserable, hand-foot-and-mouth is usually not a serious illness.


What causes hand-foot-and-mouth disease and how does it spread?


The most common causes of this disease are the coxsackie viruses, a highly contagious virus that can spread via an infected person coughing or sneezing, fluid from the blister, infected stool, or a contaminated surface/object. An infected individual is most contagious during the first week of illness, but can still pass on the virus for weeks after symptoms have resolved.

To reduce the risk of contracting hand-foot-and-mouth, the following precautions are advised:

  • Avoid close contact with infected persons
  • Disinfect surfaces, toys, and other soiled items
  • Frequent hand washing, especially after changing diapers and using the bathroom


When will symptoms appear?


It usually takes 3-6 days from time of exposure to the virus for the first symptoms to appear. These initial symptoms can include e.g. a low-grade fever, a sore throat, or a cough. 1-2 days after their onset, painful oral ulcers appear followed by a skin rash predominantly on the hands and feet. The skin rash can be painful and is seen as a red rash with a mixture of flat, bumpy, and blistering lesions.

The mouth ulcers can cause pain with eating and drinking and will usually resolve in 5-7 days. The skin rash will usually crust and resolve in 3-10 days.

Children are contagious (‘catching’) for around 7-10 days.

Keep your child home from childcare or school until blisters have dried.


Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about you or your child having hand-foot-and-mouth disease.