Hand Foot Mouth Disease in a Child

This page answers the following questions on Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD), a common childhood infection causing spots that can blister usually on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or in the mouth.

Click on the link to a specific question or read on for an overview.


What is Hand Foot and Mouth Disease?

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is usually a mild infection caused by a virus.

It starts with a fever and your child will often be miserable and off her food. She may have a sore throat or dribble her saliva.

HFM-tongue rashHFM -tongue rash

Then she may get red spots in the mouth (on the gums, tongue or on the inside of cheeks) that can blister and then become ulcers (when the top of the blister comes off).

Children can also get small red spots that become blisters on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet and sometimes on the buttocks. The rash on the hands and feet isn't itchy usually. However, when the rash appears on the feet, she may complain that her feet hurt.

Some children get the rash in their mouth or hands and feet only and some children will get both mouth and hands and feet involvement.

HFMD lasts about 7 to 10 days. The rash in the photos below is characteristic.

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What causes Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD)?

It is usually caused by a Coxsackie virus but other viruses, such as enterovirus, can also cause HFMD.

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Who gets Hand Foot Mouth Disease?

It is common in toddlers and older children.

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HFM-hand rashHFM - hand rash
HFM - foot rashHFM - foot rash

What is the treatment of Hand Foot Mouth Disease?

There are no specific treatments but Paracetamol (Pamol,Calpol) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be given to keep your child comfortable if she is very miserable.

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Do I need to keep my toddler away from day care?

There are no absolute guidelines for keeping children with Hand Foot and Mouth Disease away from other children but most doctors agree that children with open ulcers in the mouth or weeping blisters on the hands or feet should be kept away from day care.

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Is it the same disease sheep get?

No. It is not the same as Foot and Mouth disease that sheep get. Children can't get this infection from animals and vice versa.

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  • Center for Disease Control. Hand Foot and Mouth Fact Sheet. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/enterovirus/hfhf.htm

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Last reviewed 14 May 2011

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Dr Maud MD

Dr Maud MD (MBChB, FRACP, FRCPCH), a specialist pediatrician, provides health information and medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers. Read more about Dr Maud.

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