Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)

  • What is hand, foot and mouth disease (HVMD)?
    HFMD is a common viral illness among infants and children younger than 5 years of age but may also occur in older children and adults. It is most common in the summer and fall. Although the name of this illness may sound scary, HFMD is generally a mild illness caused by a different virus.

    What are the symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease (HVMD)?
    Symptoms of HFMD may include a skin rash with small blisters that are most commonly found on the hands, feet, and buttocks. Blisters may also be present inside the mouth, which can make it difficult to eat or drink. Other symptoms include a low-grade fever, sore throat, runny nose, increased drooling or cough. Some people may show no symptoms at all, but they can still pass the virus to others. The infection usually goes away without any serious complications within seven to 10 days. On rare occasions, complications of viral meningitis or encephalitis may occur.

    How is hand, foot and mouth disease (HVMD) spread?
    The virus can be passed through saliva, through the fluid from blisters on the hands and feet, and through the person’s feces (poop). A person is most contagious during the first week of the illness but may stay contagious for several weeks afterwards. The time between becoming infected and the start of symptoms is between three and seven days. It is not transmitted to or from pets or other animals. Outbreaks of HFMD in childcare facilities usually coincide with an increased number of cases in the community.

    Who may become ill with hand, foot and mouth disease (HVMD)?
    HFMD can affect anyone, but most cases occur in children under 5 years old. Adults have typically been exposed to the viruses causing HFMD earlier in life and are less likely to get it as adults. Infection results in immunity (protection) to the specific virus that caused the illness. However, since several different viruses can cause HFMD, a person is not completely immune to the disease and can get a case of HFMD again.

    How is hand, foot and mouth disease (HVMD) treated?
    There is no specific treatment available for HVMD. Symptoms may be treated to provide relief from fever, aches, or pain from the mouth ulcers. Never give aspirin to a child, as this has been associated with Reye Syndrome.

    How can the spread of hand, foot and mouth disease (HVMD) be reduced?

    • Thoroughly sanitize all toys, especially those that are put in the mouth. Any toy that a child has mouthed should be removed from the play area until it has been cleaned and sanitized. Wash toys first with soapy water and then rinse with water. Sanitize toys and other potentially contaminated surfaces.
    • Make sure that all children and adults use good handwashing practices, especially after diaper changing or using the toilet.
    • Avoid contact with nose and throat secretions (such as saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus), fluid in blisters, and stool of infected persons.
    • Teach children to cover their mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing.

    It is important to understand that the virus may still be excreted for weeks after the symptoms have disappeared. Some people may excrete the virus even though they never had any symptoms.Therefore, maintaining good sanitation and hand washing is always important and should be routinely practiced.

    Should you exclude those with hand, foot and mouth disease (HVMD) from group setting?
    HVMD is highly contagious. People with the illness should limit their exposure to others while they have active signs and symptoms. Children or staff with active symptoms of HVMD should be excluded until fever is resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications and mouth sores are healed.