KidsMD Health Topics

Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease

  • Overview

    Hand-foot-mouth disease is a common viral illness that affects infants and children, often appearing as a rash of small, blister-like bumps in the hands, feet and mouth.

    • Hand-foot-mouth disease is caused by the coxsackie virus.
    • It's very common in children under the age of 10.
    • Hand-foot-mouth disease is often confused with foot-and-mouth disease, which affects cattle, sheep and pigs. However, the two diseases are not related.
    • The disease is seen most often in the summer and fall.
    • Good hand washing helps prevent the spread of the disease.
    • Lots of fluids and acetaminophen helps reduce severity of the symptoms.

    How Boston Children's Hospital approaches hand-foot-mouth disease

    The Children's Hospital Informatics Program created HealthMap, an online resource and smart phone application that helps track the spread of contagious diseases, including Hand-Foot-Mouth disease, in real time.

     
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    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115
     617-355-6714


  • In-Depth

    What is hand-foot-mouth disease?

    Hand-foot-mouth disease is a viral illness that results in a distinctive rash of small, blister-like bumps in the mouth, 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-mouth disease?

    Hand-foot-mouth disease is most often caused by the coxsackie virus. The virus is contagious and can be caught by contact with bodily fluids or stools of an infected person. You're most contagious the first week you have the disease. Good hand washing is necessary to help prevent the spread of the disease.

    Is hand-foot-mouth disease common?

    This disease is very common in children under the age of 10. It's seen most often in the summer and fall.

    What are the symptoms ofhand-foot-mouth disease?

    While symptoms may vary child-to-child, the most common 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

    Can you prevent hand-foot-mouth disease?

    Yes. Proper hand washing is essential in helping to prevent the disease from being spread to other children.

  • Tests

    How does a doctor know that it's hand-foot-mouth disease?

    The rash of hand-foot-mouth disease is unique, which usually allows for a diagnosis simply on a physical exam.

  • Since a virus causes hand-foot-mouth disease, antibiotics are not effective and the disease simply needs to run its course. The best thing you can do is to help reduce the severity of the symptoms. This can include:

    • increasing fluid intake to prevent dehydration; provide cool, iced fluids in small amounts frequently
    • acetaminophen for fever
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