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Hand-foot-and-mouth disease


Disease: Hand-foot-and-mouth disease Hand-foot-and-mouth disease
Category: Infectious diseases

Disease Definition:

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, which is common in young children, is a mild but contagious viral infection. The most common cause of hand-foot-and-mouth disease is coxsackievirus. This disease is marked by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet.


Hand-foot-and-mouth disease doesn't have a specific treatment. By practicing good hygiene, such as washing hands often and thoroughly, the risks of being infected with hand-foot-and-mouth disease may be reduced.

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Symptoms, Causes


These are some of the signs and symptoms that someone may experience if they have hand-foot-and-mouth disease:


  • Fever
  • Malaise, which is the general feeling of being unwell
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Painful, red and blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks.
  • Irritability in infants and toddlers
  • A red, non-itchy, possibly blistery rash on palms of the hands and soles of the feet, and in some cases, on the buttocks.


The incubation period is three to seven days, which is the period from the initial infection to the onset of signs and symptoms. In most cases, the first sign of hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a fever followed by a sore throat and in some cases malaise and a poor appetite. Painful sores may occur in the mouth or throat after a day or two of the development of fever, and within one or two days, a rash may develop on the hands and feet and in some cases on the buttocks.


This disease is considered only a minor illness because it usually has relatively mild signs and symptoms and causes only a few days of fever. However, if a sore throat or mouth sores keep a child from drinking fluids, parents should contact a doctor. In case the signs and symptoms of the child worsen in a few days, parents should also contact a doctor.


Infection due to the coxsackievirus A16 is the most common cause of hand-foot-and-mouth disease. This virus belongs to a group of viruses called enteroviruses. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease could also be caused by other enteroviruses. Most cases of this disease aren't serious.


The main source of coxsackievirus infection and hand-foot-and-mouth disease is oral ingestion. This disease spreads by person-to-person contact with saliva, the stool of someone with the infection, fluid from blisters and nose and throat discharges. The mist of fluid sprayed into the air when someone coughs or sneezed could also spread the virus. This disease is quite common in children in child care settings because diaper changing and potty training are constant over there and children often put their hands in their mouths.
Even though during the first week of illness the child will be most contagious with hand-foot-and-mouth disease, however, after the signs and symptoms are gone, the virus could remain in the child's body for weeks, meaning that he/she could still infect others.
The virus could also be passed by people who don't show any signs or symptoms of the disease, especially adults.



Dehydration is the most common complication of this disease. Sores in the mouth and throat could be caused by this illness, which could make swallowing difficult and painful. To make sure that the child consumes enough fluids during the course of the illness, he/she should be closely watched. Intravenous fluids could be necessary in case the dehydration is severe.


There's a rare and serious form of the coxsackievirus that could involve the brain and end up causing complications such as:


This rare complication is the inflammation of the brain caused by a virus. It is a severe and possibly life-threatening disease.

Viral meningitis:

Viral meningitis, which is usually mild and clears out on its own, is the infection and inflammation of the membranes (meninges) and cerebrospinal fluid that surround the spinal cord and brain.


Hand-foot-and-mouth disease doesn't have a specific treatment. Usually, in seven to ten days, the signs and symptoms of this disease clear up.


To help relieve the pain of mouth sores, a topical oral anesthetic may be used; and to relieve general discomfort, the child could take some over-the-counter pain medications other than aspirin, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.


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