A Guide to Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Spit It Out! Parents’ Guide to Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Ah, the wonders of childhood! Learning, growing, caring, and sharing are all skills every parent wants their child to master. But let’s be honest, sometimes kids can share just a little too much, and might pick up something more than just social skills.

What is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFM) is a common viral infection caused by the coxsackievirus, not to be confused with Hoof and Mouth disease (which only affects livestock). We tend to see a surge in HFM cases during the summer and fall, but it can be contracted at any time of year. It’s highly contagious and is transferred through everyday activities as well as bodily fluids like saliva, feces, or mucous (i.e. spit, poop, and snot, respectively). While adults and older children can still get HFM, it’s usually most common amongst children aged 5 and below. 

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Signs and Symptoms

Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease may present with flu-like symptoms after an incubation period of between 3-6 days. Fever, chills, aches, and irritability are always a good indicator that something is up with your little one. HFM is most notably characterized by a spotty, blister-like rash that appears on palms, the bottoms of feet, and around the diaper/buttocks area. These blisters may be flat and ulcerous or contain fluid as they heal, so it’s important to keep your child from picking and scratching. Keep the affected areas as clean as possible. A sore throat and mouth sores are also common and may be noticed as a result of loss of appetite, drooling, or only wanting to consume cold foods or drinks. Dehydration is also a concern.


It is important to note, however, that while symptoms are uncomfortable, they’re typically mild, and your child should be feeling themselves again after about 7-10 days.

Prevention of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, and sometimes it’s just part of growing up! Children are resilient, and during formative years spend a lot of time developing immunities to common bugs and germs. However, there are a couple of good practices that can help keep your family happy, healthy, and virus-free!

  • Wash Your Hands: Good hygiene practices go a long way when it comes to keeping everyone in good health. Always make sure to wash your hands after engaging in certain activities, especially when they involve touching other people! Giving your hands a good scrub after changing dirty clothing/diapers, sneezing, or coughing, and especially after being in contact with someone you know is sick will reduce the chances of catching HFM or passing it along to others.

  • Avoid Touching Your Face: We all touch our faces. It’s a natural part of the human body language. However, while it’s not realistic to expect everyone not to touch their faces, being mindful of the habit is important. Touching your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands can greatly increase your chances of getting sick. This habit works in reverse, too. Just be conscious and keep your hands clean.

  • Disinfect: Cleaning and disinfecting frequently used surfaces helps reduce the spreading of germs, viruses, and bacteria.  This can include kitchen counters, bathrooms, doorknobs, toys, or any other shared objects that you and your family come in contact with.

  • Limit Contact: This probably goes without saying, but keeping a distance from individuals you know are sick is the best way to ensure you or your child don’t come in contact with Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. Additionally, if your child is contagious, keeping them home is recommended, and will help keep others safe!

Treatment of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

As we mentioned, there isn’t currently a vaccine available for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, but there are things you can do that will help make your child more comfortable while they’re feeling under the weather.

  • To curb aches and pains, kid-friendly pain killers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen (avoid aspirin) are safe to use.

  • Topical creams, ointments, and lotions (like calamine) can help soothe the itchy rash.

  • Swishing salt water can alleviate pain caused by mouth sores as well as sore throat, as can throat lozenges.

  • Popsicles, ice, cold beverages, and other cool treats are recommended as easy, at-home solutions for a tender mouth and throat, and will no doubt be a welcome comfort while your little one recovers.

  • Avoid citrus, sodas, spicy food, and other irritants.

Treating Hand, Foot, and Mouth in Memphis, TN - Pediatrics East

If you have questions or concerns, schedule an appointment with a Pediatrics East pediatrician. Children who have HFM generally recover with at-home treatment, over the counter medication, and rest. Seek out your local healthcare provider if your child’s condition doesn’t improve after 7-10 days, or if they become dehydrated.  Infants below the age of 6 months or children with compromised immune systems should see a doctor at the onset of symptoms.

Posted by Tim Flatt at 10:22
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