What is hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common illness of infants and children caused by a strain of Coxsackie virus. It causes a blister-like rash that, as the name implies, involves the hands, feet and mouth. The illness is typically mild and complications are rare.

Who gets HFMD?
This disease usually affects children under 10 years old although it can occasionally occur in adults.

What are the symptoms?
Fever, a poor appetite, runny nose and sore throat can appear three to five days after exposure. A blister-like rash on the hands, feet and in the mouth usually develops one to two days after the initial symptoms. Sufferers may also have a headache and abdominal pain.

HFMD is moderately contagious. Infection is spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges or with the faeces of infected persons. A person is most contagious during the first week of the illness.

What treatment is there?
There is no specific treatment available for this infection. Symptomatic treatment, such as paracetamol (e.g. Calpol) can be given in the dose prescribed for the child’s age, to provide relief from fever, aches, or pain from the mouth ulcers. Antibiotics are not effective against this disease. Encourage plenty of fluids and, if the child is old enough to do so, get them to rinse their mouth with warm water after eating.

Preventive measures include frequent hand washing, especially after changing nappies. The person with the illness should be encouraged to wash their hands well after using the toilet and before handling or eating food.

Make sure the toilet is kept clean. Use diluted bleach or disinfectant to clean the toilet making sure you clean the handle as well as the seat.

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