Symptoms and Diagnosis of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease usually include fever, mouth sores, and skin rash.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is common in infants and children younger than five years old. Most children have mild symptoms for 7 to 10 days.

Symptoms include

Mother takes child's temperature using a digital thermometer

Fever and flu-like symptoms

Children often get a fever and other flu-like symptoms three to six days after they catch the virus. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Eating or drinking less
  • Sore throat
  • Feeling unwell

Other symptoms may appear over the next few days.

Toddler girl eating at a table

Mouth sores

One or two days after the fever starts, your child may get painful mouth sores (herpangina). These sores usually start as small red spots, often in the back of that mouth, that blister and can become painful.

Signs that swallowing may be painful for your child:

  • Not eating or drinking
  • Drooling more than usual
  • Only wanting to drink cold fluids
Mother holds child's foot and shows rash

Skin rash

Your child may get a skin rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It may also show up on the knees, elbows, buttocks, or genital area.

The rash usually looks like flat, red spots, sometimes with blisters. Fluid in the blister and the scab that forms as the blister heals may contain the virus that causes hand, foot, and mouth disease. Keep blisters or scabs clean and avoid touching them.

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Treat symptoms at home

Often the infection is mild, and symptoms can be treated at home. However, sometimes you need to see a health care provider.

Treat Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

When to see a healthcare provider

See a healthcare provider if

  • Your child is not drinking enough to stay hydrated
  • Symptoms do not improve after 10 days
  • Your child has a weakened immune system or if the symptoms are severe
  • Your child is very young, especially younger than 6 months

Diagnosing hand, foot, and mouth disease

Healthcare providers can usually tell if someone has hand, foot, and mouth disease by examining the patient and considering

  • How old the patient is
  • What symptoms the patient has
  • How the rash and mouth sores look

A healthcare professional may sometimes collect samples from the patient’s throat, blister, or feces (poop), then send them to a laboratory to test for the virus.

Wash Your Hands

Mother and daughter washing their hands together

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

When and How to Wash Your Hands