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Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease – Overview, Symptoms, Treatment

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease – Overview, Symptoms, Treatment


What is Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease?

Hand, foot & mouth disease, also known as HFMD or foot-mouth disease, is termed a highly contagious disease and the infection spreads rapidly when the healthy person comes in contact with the infected one. This contagious viral infection is noticed more commonly in children and causes small, painful red blisters in the mouth, throat, feet, hands, and the diaper area. The virus causing most hand, foot, and mouth infections is coxsackievirus.

The carriers of hand, foot, and mouth disease are unwashed hands, faeces, saliva, mucus, and leaking fluid from the blisters. Children under the age of 7 years are more prone to contracting hand, foot, and mouth disease as they attend schools, preschools, day care centres, and summer camps where the kids are closely placed together.


Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Symptoms

HFMD symptoms usually start showing up usually 3 to 6 days after the infection. Such a period is also called the virus incubation period. Hand, foot, and mouth disease can cause all or some of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Mood irritability
  • Malaise or the generalised feeling of not being well
  • Small red blisters that develop in the mouth, throat, foot, and diaper area and are painful to touch
  • Drooling in infants & toddlers
  • Red rashes on the hands and soles of the feet


In the early stages of hand, foot, and mouth disease, the first apparent symptoms are fever and sore throat. The symbolic rashes and blisters start showing up after 1 or 2 days of fever. In dark-skinned kids and adults, the red spots may be harder to notice. It is advised to check the palms and feet where the symptoms may be visibly noticeable.


Causes of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

The most common cause of hand, foot, and mouth disease is coxsackievirus, which is a group of nonpolio enteroviruses. HFMD spreads commonly through the mouth and spreads when a healthy person comes in contact with the infected one and the following bodily fluids and mediums are shared:

  • Throat discharge or secretions through the nose
  • Saliva
  • Leaking fluid from the blisters
  • Stool
  • Water droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes

However, it is to be noticed here that humans can’t contract hand, foot, and mouth disease from animals and can’t even spread it to them.


 Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Risk Factors

It is young children that are at the highest risk of developing hand, foot, and mouth disease as they attend schools, preschools, and daycare centres where children are kept together inside a closed setting. This acts as a perfect breeding ground for viruses. Children below 7-10 years usually develop immunity themselves after contracting the infection. However, it is possible for children and adults with weaker immune systems to contract HFMD.


Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Diagnosis

Hand, foot, and mouth diseases can be easily diagnosed by doctors through a physical examination. The doctor will also check your mouth, feet, and hands for any apparent rashes and blisters and ask for more symptoms to reach a confirmed diagnosis. To support the same with conclusive diagnostic evidence, your doctor may also advise going for a throat swab or stool sample to check for the virus.


Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Treatment

Since it is a mild infection with a high transmission rate, the symptoms are usually mild and go away within 7 to 10 days without any treatment. In cases where the symptoms get uncomfortable and painful, the doctor may advise certain treatments till the disease runs its complete course. Here are some treatment options your doctor will advise you:

  • Topical ointments available over-the-counter or with prescriptions. Such ointments work well in soothing blisters and rashes.
  • Certain pain-relieving medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen for relief from throbbing headache
  • Cough-relieving syrups or throat lozenges to soothe a sore throat


Home Remedies for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

If the HFMD symptoms aren’t that severe and seeing a doctor isn’t required, you can also resort to certain home remedies for hand, foot, and mouth disease to relieve of the symptoms. You can try the following easy home remedies to ease the painful blisters:

  • Keeping ice lollies and popsicles in the mouth
  • Eating cold ice cream and sherbets
  • Drinking cold beverages
  • Cutting down on soda, citrus fruits, and fruit drinks
  • Avoiding spicy, salty, and fried foods


Swishing your mouth with warm salt water multiple times a day helps immensely in getting relief from the pain caused by blisters.


Preventing Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Practising optimal hand and overall hygiene is the best way to avoid contracting hand, foot, and mouth diseases. Kids and adults who practise regular handwashing several times a day are at minimal risk of getting the virus.

Educate your children on the importance and the correct way of washing hands frequently, specifically after using the restrooms, and public toilets, before and after eating, and after being out in public.

Parents should regularly engage in disinfecting toys, pacifiers, kids shared objects and other things that are at risk of being susceptible to the virus. If you or your child is believed to be suffering from HFMD symptoms, it is best not to send them to a school or daycare centre. Keep the infected person in isolation to avoid contact with others. All these measures help in preventing hand, foot, and mouth disease and spreading the risk of infection among others.


See a doctor if the fever doesn’t go down, blisters are painful to tolerate, and the infection starts spreading to the other parts of the body.

Dr. Vikas Deswal
Internal Medicine
Meet The Doctor
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