Hand-foot-mouth disease

Definition

Hand-foot-mouth disease is a common viral infection that most often begins in the throat.

Causes

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) is most commonly caused by a virus called coxsackievirus A16.

Children under age 10 are most often affected. Teens and adults can sometimes get the infection. HFMD usually occurs in the summer and early fall.

The virus can spread from person-to-person through tiny, air droplets that are released when the sick person sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose. You can catch hand-foot-and-mouth disease if:

The virus is most easily spread the first week a person has the disease.

Symptoms

The time between contact with the virus and the start of symptoms is about 3 to 7 days. Symptoms include:

Exams and Tests

A history of recent illness and a physical examination, demonstrating the characteristic vesicles on the hands and feet, are usually sufficient to diagnose the disease.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for the infection other than relief of symptoms.

Antibiotics do not work because the infection is caused by a virus. (Antibiotics treat infections caused by bacteria, not viruses.) To relieve symptoms, the following home care can be used:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Complete recovery occurs in 5 to 7 days.

Possible Complications


When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if there are signs of complications, such as pain in the neck or arms and legs. Emergency symptoms include convulsions.

You should also call if:

Prevention

Avoid contact with people with HFMD. Wash your hands well and often, especially if you are in contact with people who are sick. Also teach children to wash their hands well and often.


Review Date: 8/18/2013
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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