Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease

[hand] [foo t] [and; unstressed uh nd] [mouth] [dih-zeez ]

Baby sucking on toes

Hand, foot, and mouth disease, or HFMD, is a contagious illness that is caused by different viruses. It is common in infants and children younger than 5 years old. However, older children and adults can also get HFMD. Symptoms include fever, mouth sores, and a skin rash. In the United States it is more common for people to get HFMD during summer and fall.

Quiz

Key Facts

  • Usually causes fever, painful sores in the mouth, and a rash on the hands and feet (sometimes with blisters).
  • HFMD is a contagious disease.
  • It mostly affects infants and children younger than 5 years old but people of any age can be infected.
  • It has no specific treatment.
  • Infection risk can be reduced by practicing good hygiene such as washing hands often

Media

Soapy hands under faucet

Preventing HFMD

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers, and help young children do the same; avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups and eating utensils with people who have HFMD; and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.

Baby taking medicine

HFMD Treatment

There is no specific treatment for HFMD. Fever and pain can be managed with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. It is important for people with HFMD to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids).

Young girl with a fever

Is HFMD Serious?

HFMD is usually not serious. The illness is typically mild, and nearly all people recover in 7 – 10 days without medical treatment. Complications are uncommon. Rarely, an infected person can develop viral meningitis and may need to be hospitalized for few days. Other more rare complications can include polio-like paralysis or encephalitis (brain inflammation), which can be fatal.

Sick young boy

Contagiousness

The viruses that cause HFMD can be found in an infected person's nose and throat secretions (saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus); blister fluid; and poop. People with HFMD are most contagious during their first week of illness. However, they may sometimes remain contagious for weeks after symptoms go away. Some people, especially adults, may not develop any symptoms, but they can still spread the viruses to others.

Prevention Tips

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups and eating utensils with people who have HFMD.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, including objects such as toys and doorknobs.

More at CDC.gov

Page last reviewed: July 8, 2019