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Hand-foot-and-mouth disease

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease — a mild, contagious viral infection common in young children — is characterized by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus.

There's no specific treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease. You can reduce your child's risk of infection from hand-foot-and-mouth disease by practicing good hygiene and teaching your child how to keep clean.


Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease may cause all of the following signs and symptoms or just some of them. They include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Feeling of being unwell (malaise)
  • Painful, red, blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks
  • A red rash, without itching but sometimes with blistering, on the palms, soles and sometimes the buttocks
  • Irritability in infants and toddlers
  • Loss of appetite

The usual period from initial infection to the onset of signs and symptoms (incubation period) is three to six days. A fever is often the first sign of hand-foot-and-mouth disease, followed by a sore throat and sometimes a poor appetite and malaise.

One or two days after the fever begins, painful sores may develop in the mouth or throat. A rash on the hands and feet and possibly on the buttocks can follow within one or two days.

When to see a doctor

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is usually a minor illness causing only a few days of fever and relatively mild signs and symptoms. Contact your doctor if mouth sores or a sore throat keep your child from drinking fluids. And contact your doctor if after a few days, your child's signs and symptoms worsen.


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