What Is Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease?


Q: My little boy has hand-foot-and-mouth disease. What is it? Is it a serious disease?

A: Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a contagious disease caused by viruses. It mainly affects infants and children less than 5 years old. It always starts with a fever, sore throat and the loss of appetite. One or two days later, painful sores and blisters begin to show up in the patient’s mouth, on the palms of his hand and on the soles of his feet. Around his buttocks, elbows and knees may develop a rash which will be followed by blisters and ulcers.

The viruses that cause the disease can be found in the infected person’s nose and throat secretions, blister fluid and feces. They can spread through the air, close personal contact, contact with feces, contaminated objects and surfaces. You can lower the risk of getting infected by these viruses by washing your hands often, infecting frequently touched surfaces and soiled items, and avoiding close contact with infected people.

There is no specific treatment for the disease, but you can take pain reliever to ease the symptom and have a lukewarm bath to lower your temperature. After 7-10 days, the symptoms should be gone by its own.

However, there are complications followed in a few cases of hand, foot, and mouth disease, such as neurologic or cardiac complications, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and flaccid paralysis.

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