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What is hand, foot and mouth disease (Vesicular stomatitis with exanthema)?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common viral infection, usually affecting children under 5 years of age. This illness is generally mild. Adults can also get the infection. It is caused by a virus known as coxsackievirus or enterovirus.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of the disease typically develop 1-2 days after becoming infected and last about 7-10 days.

Symptoms include:

  • Skin rash that appears on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet and inside the mouth that can last from 3 to 5 days.  It may also appear on the knees, elbows and buttocks.
  • Painful, red, blister-like sores may appear on the tongue, gums, and inside the cheeks.
  • Fever
  • Sore throat and mouth
  • Poor appetite
  • Feeling of being unwell, low energy
  • Irritability in infants and children
  • Do not break the blisters; they will heal on their own

How is it spread?

The most common cause of infection is ingestion of the virus. The virus is spread through direct or indirect contact with:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Respiratory droplets
  • Saliva
  • Fluid from blisters
  • Stool

The disease is not transmitted through pets or other animals.

How long is a person contagious?

A person is most contagious in the first week after symptoms appear. In some cases, an individual may be contagious for days or weeks after they have no symptoms.

The virus can be found in respiratory saliva when they cough, sneeze or talk or in their stool for weeks to months after recovery, even if the person has no symptoms. 


There is no vaccine for this disease. There is no specific treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease; rather, it is focused on relieving the symptoms. Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about treatment to reduce discomfort. Remember antibiotics do not work for this illness.

Are there any complications?

The most common complication related to hand, foot and mouth disease is dehydration. This is a result from a lack of intake of fluids due to the pain from the sores in the mouth and throat, making swallowing difficult and painful.

People who are concerned about their symptoms should contact their health care provider.

How can you prevent infection?

  • Wash hands well with soap and warm water, especially after using the toilet, changing a diaper, and before eating or handling food.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces, toys, and commonly touched objects.
  • Teach children good hand washing.
  • Cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm instead of using hands.
  • Dispose of used tissues in the garbage immediately after using and wash hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people that are sick.


Only exclude children if they have a fever or cannot participate in activities. Note: Exclusion will not reduce disease transmission of disease because some children shed the virus for weeks in the stool.

Hand Foot and Mouth disease is not a reportable infection.

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