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Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease


What is hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is an infection caused by a virus. HFMD is easily spread from person to person through direct contact. Anyone can get HFMD, but it is most common in children younger than 10 years.

What are the signs and symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease?

The following signs and symptoms of HFMD normally go away within 7 to 10 days:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sores or blisters on your tongue, gums, and inside your cheeks that appear 1 to 2 days after a fever starts
  • Rash on the palms of your hands and bottoms of your feet
  • Painful blisters on your hands or feet

How is hand, foot, and mouth disease diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask how long you have had symptoms and if you have been near anyone who has HFMD. You may also need the following tests:

  • Throat culture: This test may help healthcare providers learn which type of germ is causing your illness. Your healthcare provider will rub a cotton swab against the back of your throat. He will send the swab to a lab for tests.
  • Bowel movement sample: A sample of your bowel movement is sent to a lab for tests. The test may show what germ is causing your illness.

How is hand, foot, and mouth disease treated?

HFMD usually goes away on its own without treatment. You may need to drink extra fluids to avoid dehydration. You may also need medicine to decrease a fever or pain. You may need a medical mouthwash to help decrease pain caused by mouth sores.

How do I prevent the spread of hand, foot, and mouth disease?

You can spread the virus for weeks after your symptoms have gone away. The following can help prevent the spread of HFMD:

  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diapers, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food.
  • Avoid close contact with others: Do not kiss, hug, or share food or drinks. Ask your child's school or daycare if you need to keep your child home while he has symptoms of HFMD.
  • Clean surfaces well: Wash all items and surfaces with diluted bleach. This includes toys, tables, counter tops, and door knobs.

What are the risks of hand, foot, and mouth disease?

You may get HFMD again. You may not want to eat or drink because of the pain in your mouth and throat. If you do not drink enough fluids, you may become dehydrated. You may lose a fingernail or toenail about 4 weeks after you get sick. The virus may spread and cause meningitis or encephalitis. Meningitis is an infection and swelling of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Encephalitis is an infection that causes the brain to swell. Encephalitis is rare but can be life-threatening.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your mouth or throat are so sore you cannot eat or drink.
  • Your fever, sore throat, mouth sores, or rash do not go away after 10 days.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You urinate less than normal or not at all.
  • You have a severe headache, stiff neck, and back pain.
  • You have trouble moving, or cannot move part of your body.
  • You become confused and sleepy.
  • You have trouble breathing, are breathing very fast, or you cough up pink, foamy spit.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You have a high fever and your heart is beating much faster than it normally does.

Care Agreement

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 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.

Further information

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

Learn more about Hand, Foot, And Mouth Disease

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