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Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

Pediatric Basics


Updated December 02, 2003

Hand Foot and Mouth (HFM) disease is a common viral infection of early childhood, usually affecting children less than 5 years of age.


Typical symptoms include ulcers in a child's mouth (especially his tongue, gums, and inside of the cheeks), blisters on his hands and feet (palms and soles) and a low grade fever. Other symptoms can include a rash on the child's buttocks and mild pain from the mouth ulcers.

Symptoms usually last about 3-6 days.


Diagnosis is usually made based on the typical symptoms.

Diagnosis is more difficult in children who don't have classic symptoms. Atypical infections can occur in children with just mouth ulcers or just a rash.


There is no specific treatment for HFM disease. Instead, symptomatic treatments, including fluids and pain/fever relievers, can help your child feel better until it goes away on its own.

For painful mouth ulcers, a mixture of Benadryl and Maalox in equal parts can help to control the pain. Be sure that if your child isn't spitting it out, that you are not exceeding your child's recommended dosage of Benadryl.

What You Need To Know

  • HFM disease is usually caused by the coxsackievirus A16 virus, although other enteroviruses can cause this type of infection. Since more than one virus can cause HFM disease, a child can get it more than once.
  • Important complications to look for include dehydration, especially if your child has painful mouth ulcers and is not eating and drinking well.
  • Infections are most common in the summer and fall. Children with HFM disease are most contagious while they have mouth ulcers during their first week of illness.
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