Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Feet covered with blisters from hand, foot and mouth disease.

In this article, we’ll discuss hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) in children, providing valuable insights for parents who may be navigating this common childhood illness. We’ll explore the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and prevention strategies for HFMD, empowering parents with the knowledge to recognize and manage this condition effectively. 

At Pediatric Associates of Austin, we’re here to support you every step of the way. If you have any concerns or need expert guidance, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with our compassionate team of pediatricians in Austin, Texas, today!

What is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than five years old, though older children and adults can get it too.

HFMD typically starts with a fever, sore throat, and a general feeling of being unwell. Soon after, painful sores can develop inside the mouth, and a rash with small blisters might appear on the hands, feet, and sometimes the buttocks.

What Causes Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in children is primarily caused by viruses, commonly the coxsackievirus. These viruses belong to a group called enteroviruses, which thrive in the digestive system. 

Is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Contagious?

Yes, Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is highly contagious, especially among young children. The viruses that cause HFMD spread through close contact with an infected person’s saliva, fluid from blisters, or feces. 

Coughing, sneezing, or touching contaminated surfaces can also transmit the virus. This means that HFMD can easily spread in places like daycare centers, schools, and playgrounds where children interact closely.

Signs and Symptoms

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease can cause several signs and symptoms in children. One of the first signs is often a fever, which may come on suddenly. Your child might also complain of a sore throat, making it uncomfortable to swallow.

Shortly after, painful sores can develop inside the mouth, making it difficult for your child to eat or drink. These mouth sores can be small and often appear as red spots or ulcers on the gums, tongue, and inner cheeks.

Along with the mouth sores, a skin rash may develop on the hands, feet, and sometimes the buttocks. This rash typically consists of small red spots or blisters and can be itchy or uncomfortable.

In some cases, children may also experience other symptoms, such as irritability, decreased appetite, or general malaise. It’s important for parents to keep an eye out for these signs, especially if their child has been in contact with someone who has HFMD or if there is an outbreak in their community.

When to See a Doctor

Parents should consider taking their child to see a doctor if they suspect hand, foot, and mouth disease or if their child’s symptoms worsen or persist. It’s particularly important to seek medical attention if:

  • Difficulty Swallowing: If mouth sores make it difficult for your child to swallow and they’re unable to drink enough fluids, medical intervention may be necessary to prevent dehydration.
  • High Fever: A persistent high fever, especially if it’s accompanied by other concerning symptoms, warrants medical evaluation.
  • Severe Symptoms: If your child experiences severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, confusion, or extreme lethargy, seek medical help immediately.
  • Complications: While rare, complications of HFMD can occur, including viral meningitis or encephalitis. If your child shows signs of these serious complications, such as severe headache, neck stiffness, or seizures, seek urgent medical attention.

Remember, early detection and treatment can help manage symptoms and prevent complications. If symptoms develop or if there is a concern about HFMD, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider for proper mouth disease treatment guidance.

How is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Treated?

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is usually a mild illness that typically resolves on its own within a week or so. While there isn’t a specific cure for HFMD, treatment focuses on managing symptoms to help your child feel more comfortable during their recovery.

  • Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce fever and alleviate sore throat pain. Be sure to follow the dosage instructions based on your child’s age and weight.
  • Stay Hydrated: Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids, such as water, clear broths, or electrolyte solutions, to prevent dehydration. Avoid acidic or spicy foods and beverages that may irritate mouth sores.
  • Soft Foods: Offer soft, easy-to-eat foods that won’t irritate mouth sores. Examples include yogurt, applesauce, mashed potatoes, or smoothies. Avoid rough or crunchy foods that may cause discomfort.

How Can I Prevent Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease in My Child?

Preventing Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease in children involves practicing good hygiene habits and minimizing exposure to the virus. Here are some simple steps parents can take to help prevent HFMD:

  • Frequent Handwashing: Encourage your child to wash their hands often with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and after coming into contact with someone who may be sick. 
  • Avoid Close Contact: Teach your child to avoid close contact with individuals who have symptoms of HFMD, such as fever, sore throat, or mouth sores. Limiting exposure to the virus can reduce the risk of infection.
  • Clean and Disinfect: Regularly clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, toys, and countertops. This helps prevent the spread of the virus from contaminated surfaces to hands and mouths.
  • Practice Respiratory Hygiene: Teach your child to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or their elbow when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets containing the virus.
  • Stay Home When Sick: Keep your child home from school or daycare if they are sick with symptoms of HFMD, such as fever or mouth sores. This helps prevent the spread of the virus to other children.

Protecting Your Child from Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

As a parent, staying informed about hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) can empower you to safeguard your child’s health. Remember to seek medical attention if you suspect HFMD, especially if your child exhibits symptoms like fever, sore throat, painful mouth sores, or skin rash. 

At Pediatric Associates of Austin, our experienced pediatricians can accurately diagnose children with hand, foot, and mouth disease and provide personalized treatment options to help your child recover swiftly. Schedule an appointment with us today at our office in Austin, TX, to ensure your child receives the care they need to stay healthy and happy.


PAA Advance Practice Providers

Our PAA APP’s include: Amber Mercer, Annie Croft, Bridget Shen, Brooke Gonzalez, Caitlin Whiteman, Courtney Dudley, Emily Woodard, Emma McCarty, Erin Moore, Keena Chung, Lauren Karnesky, and Pam Dietrich