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Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

HAND, FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a viral infection that usually affects babies and children.  It can lead to fever, a blistering rash on the hands and feet, mouth sores, sore throat and a poor appetite.

HFMD (hand foot and mouth disease) is contagious and often causes illness within 3 to 7 days after exposure to an infected person.  Proper hand-washing, avoiding close contact and cleaning contaminated surfaces and items can help reduce the spread of the disease.

Causes

HFMD is caused by a group of viruses known as Enteroviruses.  The Enteroviruses called Coxsackie Virus A16 is the most common cause of HFMD.  However, in some cases, other Enteroviruses can also cause HFMD.

Symptoms and complications of HFMD

HFMD is highly infectious.  It can spread from one person to another through direct contact with discharge from the nose and throat, saliva, infected stools, or fluids from a blister.  It takes up to a week for symptoms to appear once a person is infected, though not all infected people develop symptoms.

HFMD usually begins with a low grade fever and general fatigue.  A rash of tiny, painful red spots will appear within a couple of days and will soon begin to blister and sometimes form ulcers.  These spots may appear:

  • Inside the mouth (on the tongue, gums, or cheeks)
  • On the palms of the hands or on the fingers
  • On the soles of the feet or on the toes
  • On the buttocks

The rash is not generally itchy and in some cases, may develop on other parts of the body.  Lymph nodes in the neck may also become swollen.  The virus can cause the throat to feel sore and painful.

Dehydration may occur as the pain due to the blisters in the mouth can make drinking difficult.

Until the blisters dry, a child is infectious and must therefore stay at home. 

Fluid from the blisters contains the virus.

Recovery from the virus is usually within 7 to 10 days.  There is no specific treatment for HFMD; however medication may be given for relief from fever and pain.