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Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease


  • Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is an infection caused by germs called enteroviruses. HFMD is often a mild infection but in rare cases can lead to a more serious illness. HFMD is easily spread when in close contact with an infected person. The illness is called HFMD because it usually causes a rash on the hands, feet, and inside the mouth. The skin rash usually does not itch but painful blisters may form. With HFMD you may feel sick and have a fever (high body temperature) for 1 to 2 days before the rash appears. Some people with HFMD may have no symptoms. Even if you have no symptoms, or your symptoms have resolved, you can still spread HFMD. You may spread the illness to others for weeks after getting the virus.
    Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
  • Anyone can get HFMD but it is more common in children younger than 10 years. This may be because the immune system of younger children has not built up protection against the virus yet. The immune system is the body's defense against illness and disease. Once your body has been exposed to certain germs, it begins to build up immunity (protection) against the germ. Your caregiver may know you have HFMD by looking at your skin. A throat swab or a bowel movement (BM) sample may be sent to a lab to check for the virus that causes HFMD. Treatment may include medicines to help decrease your fever. You may also be given medicine to decrease pain that can occur when you have mouth sores. Treating your HFMD may help resolve symptoms caused by painful blisters, such as a sore throat and trouble swallowing. Treatment may help decrease a fever and help you feel better.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


  • The sore throat and mouth sores that can occur with HFMD may make it hard to drink fluids. If you do not drink enough fluids, you may become dehydrated (loss of body fluids). You may need intravenous (IV) fluids in the hospital if you are very dehydrated. Some people with HFMD may lose a fingernail or toenail about four weeks after getting sick. Pregnant women who get HFMD shortly before giving birth may spread the illness to their unborn baby. The baby may get HFMD about two weeks after being born. Rarely, the infection may spread to the newborn baby's organs. This may be life-threatening to the newborn because his body does not know how to fight the infection.
  • Even after having HFMD, you may get it again. If you get HFMD a second time, your symptoms may be milder. Rarely, HFMD can lead to more serious medical problems, such as meningitis and encephalitis, or even death. Meningitis is an infection and inflammation (swelling) of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Encephalitis is an infection that causes the brain to swell. Talk with your caregiver if you have questions or concerns about hand, foot, and mouth disease.


Informed consent:

A consent form is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Neurologic exam:

This is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show caregivers how well your brain works after an injury or illness. Caregivers will check how your pupils (black dots in the center of each eye) react to light. They may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.

Vital signs:

Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

Intravenous fluids:

You may need fluids given through an IV if you are very dehydrated. An IV (intravenous) is a tube placed in your vein to give you medicine or liquids.


You may need the following medicines to help decrease your signs and symptoms:

  • Antipyretics: This medicine is given to decrease a fever.
  • Mouthwash: Your caregiver may give you special mouthwash to help relieve mouth pain caused by the sores.


You may need one or more of the following tests if caregivers feel your virus has spread to your heart or brain:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Caregivers may use the x-ray to look for signs of infection. Chest x-rays may show fluid around the heart and lungs. Ask your caregiver for more information about chest x-ray.
  • Heart monitor: This test is also called an EKG or ECG. Sticky pads are placed on your skin to record your heart's electrical activity. An EKG gives information about how your heart is working. Lie as still as possible during the test.
  • Echocardiogram: This test is also called an echo. It is a type of ultrasound, using sound waves to show pictures of the size and shape of your heart. An echo also looks at how your heart moves when it is beating. These pictures are seen on a TV-like screen.
  • Lumbar puncture: This procedure may also be called a spinal tap. During a lumbar puncture, you will need to lie very still. Caregivers may give you medicine to make you lose feeling in a small area of your back. Caregivers will clean this area of your back. A needle will be put in, and fluid removed from around your spinal cord. The fluid will be sent to a lab for tests. The tests check for infection, bleeding around your brain and spinal cord, or other problems. Sometimes medicine may be put into your back to treat your illness.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging: During magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), pictures are taken of your head. An MRI may be used to look at your brain to check for swelling or other problems. You will need to lie still during an MRI. Never enter the MRI room with any metal objects. This can cause serious injury.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (Inpatient Care)

Associated drugs

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.