Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

What is Hand Foot and Mouth Disease?

Summer and fall can be the prime time for the spread of Hand Foot and Mouth disease, a contagious and painful condition commonly found in infants and children under age five, although it can appear in older children and adults.

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a condition caused by a family of viruses called enterovirus. The Coxsackievirus A16 is usually the virus most identified with HFMD. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 10-15 million symptomatic cases of HFMD each year in the United States. There is no vaccine for the condition. It is found in the throat and nasal passages and transmitted via:

  • Saliva
  • Sputum or nasal mucus
  • Feces of an infected person
  • Blisters

It is also possible to become exposed by hugging an infected person, contact with contaminated surfaces such as a desktop, computer keyboard, countertop or a faucet.

Symptoms of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

Once exposed to HFMD, it can be between three to five days before symptoms emerge. Sometimes, the incubation period can be as long as two weeks. An individual is most contagious during the first week they are ill.

HFMD symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fatigue and malaise
  • Fever
  • Painful sores inside the mouth
  • Skin rash on the hands and feet that may turn into blisters
  • It is usually a few days after the onset of the fever that the sores develop in the mouth. The sores which can appear on the tongue, gums or inside the cheeks can be very painful. On the skin, a rash can appear on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet that can turn into blisters. The fever may last only a day or two.

Sometimes a person who has been exposed to HFMD may not have any symptoms — or have only mouth sores or just a skin rash.

Treating Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

HFMD symptoms typically clear up in about 10 days. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help with discomforts such as fever, pain from the skin rash or blisters. 

Call 911

If you feel that your child needs immediate medical care.

Call our office emergency line at 410-721-2273 if:

  • Your child is crying inconsolably. 
  • Your child suddenly has trouble hearing.

Call us during office hours if:

Your child has a fever lasting more than 3 days.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Mayo Clinic


World Health Organization

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