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Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is a viral infection that causes a rash or blisters on the hands and feet, as well as in or around the mouth. There are two types of viruses that cause HFMD, and the symptoms vary depending on the virus.
HFMD mainly affects children under the age of 10, but can also affect adolescents. It spreads easily from one person to another. It is possible to contract the virus more than once, but the symptoms will be less severe.
HFMD is not related to the foot and mouth disease that is found in animals.
Symptoms usually start three to seven days after becoming infected, and can last from seven to 10 days. If your child has HFMD, they may feel tired, have a fever, and have a rash. Depending on which virus your child has, the skin rash can look like:
The blisters should not be itchy like chickenpox blisters. If your child has eczema, the HFMD can cause the eczema to worsen and potentially become infected with bacteria.
HFMD is most commonly caused by the coxsackie virus. The main way HFMD spreads is through contact with the fluid from inside the blisters, or with the droplets spread from sneezing and coughing. The virus can also be present in bowel movements (poo) for up to several weeks after the person has recovered.
To prevent the spread of HFMD:
HFMD is a viral infection that rarely causes further complications. Antibiotics do not work on viruses and are not given to children with HFMD. HFMD will get better on its own, but there are ways you can care for your child at home:
Is HFMD dangerous for pregnant women?
HFMD is not known to pose a risk to pregnant women or their unborn babies.
My child still has blisters. Can she return to school?
If the fluid in the blisters has dried, then it is safe for your child to go back to school.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Emergency and Infection Control departments. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed February 2018.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.