July 25th, 2018
ACPeds Parent Talk

Keeping parents up to date on the latest news in child and teen health
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a contagious virus that is common in infants and children younger than 5, particularly during the summer months.

According to the CDC , HFMD symptoms include
  • a fever (and sometimes diarrhea);
  • a rash of flat red spots that may blister on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and sometimes the knees, elbows, buttocks, and/or genital area; and
  • painful mouth sores often accompanied by a sore throat (leading to reduced appetite).

While Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease typically affects children under the age of 5, older children and even adults can catch it as well . The older the infected the individual the fewer symptoms they’ll show and some won’t show any at all, though they can still spread the illness to others.

Though the virus can make a child, or adult, feel and look severely unwell, the disease subsides on its own and usually gifts the infected individual with lifelong immunity to the specific disease that caused the infection . However, it is possible for someone to get the disease again because HFMD is caused by several different viruses.

HFMD can spread from close contact with an infected person (such as hugging), coughing and sneezing , contact with feces (for example when changing a diaper ), saliva (by kissing and sharing cups or eating utensils), and touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them .


There is no real treatment for the disease itself, only the symptoms so over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can be used to manage fever and pain. The importance of drinking plenty of water can’t be stressed enough because diarrhea and the lack of appetite caused by the sore throat and mouth sores can lead to to loss of body fluids or dehydration.

Cleanliness and good hygiene are keys to Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease prevention. Taking the following steps will help prevent your child from getting HFMD or at least prevent it from spreading from one family member to another.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers, and help young children do the same.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash bedding and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as toys and doorknobs.
  • While you won’t be able to avoid close contact with your sick child (or spouse), keep the kissing and hugging to a minimum and totally avoid sharing cups and eating utensils with them while they have HFMD.

While those infected are most contagious for about a week, they can spread the virus for weeks after the symptoms fade . So make sure to practice the above steps for at least 4 weeks after all symptoms subside so that lingering germs don’t infect someone else in your home.
Whether or not you ever have to deal with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in your home, make sure to teach your children the importance of hand washing and its role in preventing many other communicable childhood illnesses , including but not limited to Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye), Influenza (the flu), the common cold and more.

Want to read articles that can help you and your family become happier and healthier? Check out our other Parent Talk articles at www.acpeds.org/parent-talk and the ACPeds blog at www.acpeds.org/blog . To receive articles like these straight to your inbox, visit www.acpeds.org/subscribe to subscribe to the blog and click here to subscribe to the Parent Talk newsletter.
American College of Pediatricians | admin@acpeds.org | www.acpeds.org | 352-376-1877