Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common illness among children under age 5

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a virus that commonly occurs in children younger than 5. It’s different from foot and mouth (or hoof and mouth) disease, which only affects animals. Hand, foot, and mouth disease spreads easily, but is usually not serious. In fact, most children feel better within a week.

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Symptoms of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

The most well-known symptoms are a body rash or sores in and around the child’s mouth, hands, and feet. Sometimes sores also show up on the legs and buttocks. These sores can look pretty bad at times, and the mouth sores can be painful. Other symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease include:

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Prevention and Treatment

Hand, foot and mouth disease is caused by a family of viruses called enteroviruses. This illness spreads quickly and easily through coughing and sneezing. It can also spread through stool, such as when changing diapers or if a child gets stool on his or her hands and touches something else.

There’s no treatment for the virus, but you can manage symptoms. Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids. You can give him or her ice pops, juice, or drinks such as Pedialyte if needed. Avoid acidic drinks and foods such as orange juice, as they can aggravate sores in the mouth. Dehydration is one of the main complications of hand, foot, and mouth disease in small children.

You can use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to manage fever and pain. Ask your doctor about applying mouth gels to help with pain from the sores or ulcers.

Related: Surviving Your Baby’s First Cold 

Preventing Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease in Kids

Symptoms usually resolve on their own within about a week, and the condition can be especially contagious at this time. Keep children home until they have been fever-free for 24 hours, or according to your school or day care’s rules.

To prevent spreading hand, foot, and mouth disease to other kids and siblings, follow these tips:

  • Wash all shared toys and bedding.
  • Wash your hands every time you change a diaper or help at potty time.
  • Don’t share food, cups, or utensils while sick.

While the rash may appear to be severe, hand, foot, and mouth disease rarely causes serious complications. With plenty of rest, fluids, and help managing pain, your child will be back to playing soon.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About Pediatrics

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