Hand Foot Mouth Disease

What is it?

Hand-foot-mouth disease (HFM) is a common illness that we see in children. The disease is most common in toddlers and school age children but can be seen rarely in adolescents. It is caused by a VIRUS known as the coxsackie virus, so antibiotics will NOT treat this illness.

What are the signs and symptoms of HFM?

HFM disease may start with the child simply feeling a bit under the weather for a few days after they were exposed to the disease. They will often begin to refuse to eat solid foods and sometimes liquids because their throat hurts a lot. These children may develop high fevers.

The distinguishing part of this disease is that they will develop red spots on the throat that may become blisters or ulcers. The kids also get small red spots which may blister on their hands, feet and even the buttocks. The rash is often found on the soles and palms which is usually for other viral rashes. It may also be painful but it usually does not itch.

How do we diagnose/treat HFM?

Diagnosis is made by history and exam of the body that shows us the rash.

Treatment is only supportive. This is a virus so antibiotics do not help. It is important to control the child’s pain with Tylenol and/or Motrin. It is also important to keep the child well hydrated by pushing fluids such as water, formula or pedialyte. You can also use jello or Popsicles as alternatives to fluid. Drinks such as orange juice should be avoided as the acidic nature may hurt the throat.

When do I call the doctor?

  • If your child has no urine in 24 hours, dry mouth or a sunken soft spot (all signs of dehydration) the doctor should be called.
  • If the fever lasts for more than 5 days or if the child has other signs of illness such as an ear infection.

How can I prevent HFM?

The virus is spread via particles in the stool and your respiratory secretions (AKA snot). You can also get this from objects such as changing tables and toys. You should wash hands frequently.   Children should also not attend daycare for several days.