Infectious Diseases

Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease (HFMD)

Written by
Dr. Sneha Kannan
and medically reviewed by Dr. Vishal Parmar

Published on May 28, 2019 and last reviewed on Oct 15, 2019   -  3 min read



Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral infection, which commonly affects children under 5 years of age. Coxsackievirus, which belongs to the Enterovirus genus, is the virus that is responsible for most cases of HFMD.

Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease (HFMD)

What Is Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease?

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral infection, which commonly affects children under 5 years of age. Coxsackievirus, which belongs to the Enterovirus genus, is the virus that is responsible for most cases of HFMD. It is highly contagious and can be spread through direct contact from person-to-person. This disease is characterized by blisters and sores on the hands, feet, and mouth.

Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease

image source: wjla

What Are the Symptoms Associated with Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease?

The symptoms usually develop 3 to 7 days after the person gets infected with the virus. Some of the symptoms seen are:

Fever is usually the first sign of this disease, which is followed by sore throat, poor appetite, and malaise. The other disease that can cause fever with sores in the throat and back of the mouth in children is herpangina, which is also caused by coxsackievirus.

What Causes Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease?

HFMD is mainly caused by the viruses Coxsackievirus A16 and Enterovirus 71. But, other strains of coxsackievirus and enterovirus can also cause this disease.

How Is Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease Spread?

The virus spreads by direct contact with an infected person and oral ingestion of infected food or water. It also spreads if you come in contact with an infected person’s:

  • Nasal secretions.

  • Throat secretions.

  • Saliva.

  • Stool.

  • Fluid from blisters.

The infected child is most contagious during the first week of the illness, but can still infect others for weeks after the symptoms are gone. Infected adults can pass this infection even without showing any symptoms. This disease is more common in summer and autumn.

What Are the Risk Factors for Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease?

Children under 5 years of age, and who go to daycare centers and playschool are more susceptible to get infected with this virus. This is because of frequent diaper changes and the child’s habit of putting their hands in the mouth. As the child grows old, they develop immunity to this disease, as they develop antibodies against this virus after getting infected the first time. It is rarely seen in adolescents and adults.

How Is Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease Diagnosed?

The doctor might diagnose this condition by examining the rashes and blisters on the mouth and body, and by enquiring about other symptoms. If needed, he or she might take a throat swab or stool sample, which will be tested for the presence of the virus.

What Are the Complications of Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease?

It is usually a minor illness, but in rare cases, it can cause complications like:

  1. Dehydration - most common complication.

  2. Viral meningitis - inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

  3. Encephalitis - inflammation of the brain.

How Is Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease Treated?

As such, there is no specific treatment for HFMD. The signs and symptoms of this disease usually resolve in 7 to 10 days.

For pain relief, topical anesthetic gels can be applied on the sores and blisters, and Paracetamol can be taken to reduce fever.

No antibiotics are required to treat hand-foot-and-mouth disease, but if the child develops secondary infection, then the doctor might consider giving antibiotics.

What Are the Home Remedies for Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease?

The following are some tips that can help relieve pain:

  • Eat ice cream and other cool food items.

  • Drink cold milk, juice, and water.

  • Avoid citrus and aerated drinks as it might aggravate the pain caused by mouth blisters.

  • Avoid spicy, hot, and salty foods.

  • Consume liquid to semi-liquid foods.

  • Tell your child to rinse the mouth with warm water after every meal.

How Can Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease Be Prevented?

There is no vaccine available to prevent this disease, but certain precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk are:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.

  • Areas like daycare center and playschool should be disinfected with soap and water, and then with diluted chlorine bleach.

  • Educate your child about the ill effects of putting the hands and other objects in the mouth.

  • Prevent going out if you have this disease until all symptoms disappear.

The symptoms like fever and blisters usually clear up within a week. But if the symptoms persist even after a week and if you start experiencing any complications, then please consult a physician online. HFMD rarely causes a medical emergency.

Last reviewed at:
15 Oct 2019  -  3 min read




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