Complications of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is usually not serious. Nearly all people get better in 7 to 10 days with no or minimal medical treatment.

Complications from HFMD are rare.


Some people, especially young children, can get dehydrated if they are not able to swallow enough liquids because of painful mouth sores. Parents can prevent dehydration by making sure their child drinks enough liquids.

Fingernail and toenail loss

Although very rare, people may lose a fingernail or toenail after having HFMD. Most reports of fingernail and toenail loss have been in children. In these reported cases, the person usually lost the nail within a few weeks after being sick. The nail usually grew back on its own. However, there is no evidence that HFMD was the cause of the nail loss.

Viral (aseptic) meningitis

Although very rare, a small number of people with HFMD get viral meningitis. It causes fever, headache, stiff neck, or back pain and may require the infected person to be hospitalized for a few days.

Learn more about Viral Meningitis

Encephalitis or paralysis

Although extremely rare, a small number of people with HFMD get encephalitis (swelling of the brain) or paralysis (can’t move parts of the body).

Pregnant women

Pregnant women should contact their healthcare provider if they think they may have been exposed to hand, foot, and mouth disease or think they may have the disease. Although complications from it are rare, patient medical history and how far along a woman is in her pregnancy can affect the situation.

Related Topics

Prevent HFMD from spreading
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Wash Your Hands

washing hands together

Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds to stop germs from spreading.

When and How to Wash Your Hands