hand foot and mouth
A parent can catch hand, foot, and mouth from their children; however, adults are more likely to remain asymptomatic.

A child infected with hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is most contagious during the first week of sickness (even before the rash). However, some can spread the infection days to weeks after the disappearance of symptoms (drying up of blisters).

A parent could contract hand, foot, and mouth disease from their children through feces or fluid from blisters, but adults are more likely to remain asymptomatic than children.

What is hand foot and mouth disease?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common, but highly contagious infection in infants and children caused by an enterovirus, most commonly coxsackieviruses. It is characterized by fever, painful red blisters in the mouth, throat, and hands, and feet.

There is no curative treatment or vaccination available for HFMD at present; hence, safety precautions are the only way to avoid the illness and prevent its spread.

What causes hand foot and mouth disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is caused by coxsackieviruses A16, A6, and enterovirus 71, which is part of the enterovirus family (airborne) that lives in the human digestive tract. The primary source of HFMD infection is oral ingestion of the virus.

The virus usually spreads through person-to-person contacts, such as through the following ways:

  • Nose and throat secretions, such as saliva, drool, or nasal mucus
  • Fluid from blisters
  • Surfaces contaminated by feces (poop) and then touching the mouth, eyes, or nose
  • Respiratory droplets after a cough or a sneeze
  • Close contact with an infected person, such as touching, hugging, or handling infected toys and doorknobs
  • Sharing utensils and clothing

Who is at risk for hand foot and mouth disease?

The virus is capable of infecting individuals multiple times.

Risk factors for developing hand, foot, and mouth disease include:

  • Age: Children younger than five years are more likely to get the infection.
  • Seasonal: More common in summer and fall seasons.
  • Schools and daycares: An outbreak can occur in childcare settings.

What are the signs and symptoms of hand foot and mouth disease?

Symptoms typically appear within three to seven days after exposure to the virus (incubation period) and may rarely turn into serious complications.

11 Most common signs and symptoms include:

SLIDESHOW

Bacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments See Slideshow

How do you prevent hand foot and mouth disease from getting worse?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of the cases recover within 7 to 10 days with or without medical intervention.

There is no proper medication or antibiotic available for treatment, but the following methods could be beneficial:

  • Hydration with lots of oral fluids, soups, and fruit juices
  • To relieve discomfort and fever, take ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • To heal blisters, topical ointments (such as zinc oxide or petroleum jelly)
  • Cold drinks, ice, and mouthwash help soothe the mouth and throat
  • Avoidance of spicy foods

The following preventive four steps can help stop the spread of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD):

  • Frequent hand washing, especially after changing a diaper or using the bathroom
  • Avoid close contact with the infected person
  • Maintain hygiene and use soap and water to disinfect toys and surface areas that are touched frequently (such as doorknobs)
  • Cover the mouth while coughing or sneezing

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Medically Reviewed on 7/8/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Cleveland Clinic. Hand foot and mouth disease. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11129-hand-foot-and-mouth-disease

Ellis R. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/children/guide/hand-foot-mouth-disease

American Academy of Family Physicians. Hand, foot, and mouth disease. https://familydoctor.org/condition/hand-foot-and-mouth-disease/