Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease: Symptoms and Treatments

With FPG Pediatrician Deirdra Myers, MD

Hand foot and mouth disease (HMFD) is a very common childhood illness and most often presents as a blistery rash affecting the hands, feet and/or mouth. Caused by a strain of the Coxsackie virus, HMFD is not typically a serious or life-threatening illness, but it is very contagious. It is most common in young children under the age of 5 years but can infect older individuals as well. Most outbreaks occur in the summer and fall.

Because the virus spreads so easily from person to person, through contact with the infected person’s lesions or bodily fluids, outbreaks can be cause for concern in school environments and other places where children regularly gather and interact.

Signs & Symptoms

The early signs and symptoms of HFMD are much like those of other viral illnesses:

  • Fever
  • Sore or painful throat
  • Poor appetite

As the virus develops, the telltale signs of HFMD appear as painful sores and ulcers on the throat and tiny red spots and blisters on the body, particularly the hands, feet and diaper area.


Since HFMD is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not help.

Ways to help your child include:

  • Hydration – keep your child hydrated with water or oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte. Cooler fluids may be soothing to children.
  • Fever control – use cold towels to keep the fever down. And remember, any fever over 103°F demands immediate medical attention.
  • Nutrition – The body needs energy to heal and fight off the virus. Give your child foods that are soft and easy to swallow.

Preventative Measures

Always wash your hands:

  • After changing diapers.
  • After using the bathroom.
  • After coughing or sneezing.
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick.

Help children wash their hands.

  • Teach them how to wash their hands and make sure they wash them often

Help them keep blisters clean and avoid touching them.

  • This will help them to heal faster.

When To Return To School Or Daycare

  • It is important to share with the school or daycare that your child has developed signs and symptoms of hand foot mouth disease so that other families can watch for the symptoms.
  • Children with this condition should stay at home and away from other children until he or she has no fever for 24 hours and the mouth sores and open blisters have healed.

When to Call the Doctor

Call the doctor if your child has:

  • A fever in excess of 103°F
  • Neck pain or chest pain
  • Pus, drainage, swelling, or a large area of redness around any sores
  • Trouble swallowing or poor feeding
  • Seizures or ill appearance may require emergency evaluation

Also look out for signs of dehydration, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • No tears, sunken eyes
  • No wet diaper for 4 to 6 hours (infants and toddlers)
  • Very dark urine, or no urination in 6 to 8 hours (older children)

And if your child does not get better in a few days or is appearing more ill, contact a doctor.

Need A Pediatrician?

To find a First Physicians Group Pediatrician near you, click here.

Deirdra Myers, MD, is a board certified pediatrician at FPG’s Medical Office Building in Venice. For more information or to make an appointment, please call (941) 261-0200.

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