January 24, 2011

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral ailment that is characterized by painful mouth sores (herpangina) and skin rashes. Hand, foot and mouth disease is more common in infants and children below the age of five; however, the disease can also affect the adults. Hand, foot and mouth disease is caused by a group of viruses, which include polioviruses, echoviruses, enteroviruses, and coxsackieviruses. Hand, foot and mouth disease is oftentimes misinterpreted as foot and mouth disease, a disease that affects cattle, swine and sheep. The two conditions are unrelated and are caused by dissimilar viruses.

Symptoms: The initial symptoms of the hand, foot and mouth disease include:

  • Fever (1020 F to 1040 F)
  • Sore throat
  • Weak appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cough
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling of being unwell and sick
  • Ear pain
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

The above mentioned symptoms manifest in the beginning stages of the infection. A few days after the appearance of early symptoms, painful mouth sores can appear (hyperangina). The tiny red spots occur inside of the cheeks, on the gums, and around the tongue. As days progress, these red spots become large and eventually develop into painful ulcers. The mouth ulcers make swallowing, drinking, and eating extremely painful for a child. The condition may severely dehydrate the child.

Skin rashes may follow mouth ulcers. The skin rashes usually occur on the back of the hand, side of the heels, and side of the fingers. The rashes may also occur on the soles of the feet, palms of the hands, and in the groin and buttock areas.

Causes: The most common cause of hand, foot and mouth disease is the coxsackie A virus; however enterovirus 71 or some other coxsacie virus may also be the cause of the disease. The virus spreads by way of sneezing and coughing. The virus spreads from the tissue in the mouth through the tonsils and onto the digestive system. The virus can also spread into the lymph nodes and all through the body by blood. The incubation period for the symptoms to appear after the virus infects the body is usually 3 to 6 days.

Treatment: The diagnosis of the hand, foot and mouth disease includes the examination of the symptoms of the disease. A laboratory examination of a stool sample or a throat swab may be needed to determine the type of virus. Hand, foot and mouth disease requires no specific treatment. Some over the counter pain relievers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen may help to calm the pain and fever. However, aspirin is not recommended for children as it can cause serious illness like Reye syndrome. The use of mouthwashes, gels and sprays targeting mouth ulcer may prove effective in pain relief.

Home Remedies:
Although, hand, foot and mouth disease may run its course in 5 to 10 days, some home remedies may help to lessen the pain and irritation.

  • Avoid citrus fruits, sodas, fruit drinks and other acidic beverages and foods
  • Avoid sodium and spices
  • Eat ice cream
  • Suck on ice chips and ice pops
  • Drink cold milk or water
  • Eat foods that require less chewing
  • Use rubber or latex gloves while applying topical medication on the blisters
  • Clean the mouth properly after every meal
  • Do not share utensils with an infected person
  • Wash hands after using the toilet and changing diapers and before cooking
  • Advise children to clean their hands regularly
  • Clean the contaminated surfaces properly

Hand, foot and mouth disease is contagious and can spread through contact with saliva, mucus from the nose, fluid oozing from the blisters and feces. It is highly advisable for infected kids to stay away from school in order to keep the disease from affecting other kids. Adults suffering from the disease should skip work till the infection clears.


  1. http://www.nhs.uk
  2. http://www.cdc.gov
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov