Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 5/22/2017

The symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease are typically mild and occur mainly in children during the spring and fall seasons. Symptoms can include

A rash is characteristic of this viral disease. The rash (red spots on the skin) of hand, foot, and mouth disease is most commonly observed on the palms, soles of the feet, and inside the mouth. The rash sometimes spreads to the lower calves and buttocks. The small red bumps quickly develop into blisters. The sores inside the mouth are typically painful.

Causes of hand, foot, and mouth disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by an infection with one of several members of the Enterovirus family of viruses. The most common cause is Coxsackievirus A16; Enterovirus 71 is also a possible cause. The viruses are spread from person to person by direct contact with the infecting virus. The viruses are most commonly found in the nasal and throat regions but also in the blister fluid or stool of infected individuals. The virus can survive on surfaces such as desktops, faucets, etc., and can be transferred by touching contaminated, unwashed surfaces and then touching your nose, mouth, or eyes before washing your hands. Changing diapers from an infected infant without wearing gloves or proper hand washing can transmit disease. Water contaminated with the virus is another way to spread the infection.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/22/2017

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