What is Hand, Foot and Mouth disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is caused by a viral infection and is usually a mild illness. It occurs at any age but mainly in children under ten years old. The highest number of cases occur in summer and early autumn. Outbreaks are quite common in crèches and childcare centres.

It is NOT the same as Foot and Mouth disease which occurs in farm animals.

What are the symptoms?

The illness has a sudden onset with fever and a sore throat. This begins one to two days before small, red blisters appear on the gums, side of the tongue and inside of the cheeks. A rash also appears on palms of the hands and soles of the feet and occasionally the buttock area.

Symptoms appear three to five days after becoming infected. The illness may last for seven to ten days.

How is it spread?

People become infected after contact with nose and throat discharges (e.g. coughing) and the faeces (poo) of people carrying the disease. A person is most infectious during the first week of the illness, but the virus is shed in faeces for several weeks and this may be a source of spread.

How is it treated?

As it is caused by a virus there is no specific treatment but some of the symptoms can be helped by paracetamol.

How is spread prevented?

The following will help prevent spread:

  • promote hand washing and other hygiene measures at home, at pre-school and school
  • unwell children should stay away from pre-school centres and school until they are well again
  • dispose of or wash soiled articles carefully
  • each person should have their own towel and facecloth.

Talk to your family doctor for more information about hand, foot and mouth disease.