Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideCommon Childhood Skin Disorders

Common Childhood Skin Disorders

When does hand, foot, and mouth disease usually occur?

In the temperate northern hemisphere, summer and fall are the most frequent seasons for community epidemics of HFMD. The illness is year-round in the tropics. While anyone exposed to the viral causes of HFMD may develop disease, not everyone infected will develop symptoms and signs.

How long does hand, foot, and mouth disease last?

The total duration of illness from HFMD is approximately five to seven days. One to three days after viral invasion of the patient, the first symptoms become evident. These include fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, and a general sense of feeling ill (malaise). One to two days later, the characteristic painful mouth sores develop. The final stage of the illness is manifested by small, tender red spots which progress to blisters in the mouth, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and less frequently on the arms and legs, as well as the buttock and genital areas.

What is the course of hand, foot, and mouth disease?

The illness is characteristically self-limited and is usually resolved within a week, particularly when due to its most common cause, Coxsackievirus A16. In those outbreaks due to enterovirus 71, the illness may be more severe with complications such as infection of the heart muscle and/or viral meningitis and encephalitis and paralytic disease. As a rule, HFMD is generally a mild and self-limited illness.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/23/2017

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