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Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease Overview

Overview of Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) is a highly contagious viral infection that occurs mainly in the mouth, on the feet, and on the hands. It affects younger children severely. The infection typically spreads from child to child, and from child to parents. Resolution can be expected within a week.

Cause of Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is caused by the coxsackievirus. Isolated cases can occur, and epidemics occur regularly.

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Signs and Symptoms of Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease

A few days after exposure, a low-grade fever, anorexia, malaise, and mouth soreness occurs. The fever, usually about 101°F, lasts a few days. Within a day or two, sores erupt in the mouth. They begin as tiny blisters on a red base that open up and resolve in a few days. Within a couple of days, small, clear to white blisters develop on the palms and soles. Similar lesions may develop on the rest of the skin. The characteristic oval blisters resolve within 1 week.

Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease Diagnosis

Diagnosis is typically made by clinical observation.

Treatment for Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease

Treatment is directed toward symptomatic relief. A topical solution containing xylocaine (a numbing agent) can be applied to oral ulcers to ease pain.

Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease Prevention

No vaccine exists to prevent hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Infection during the first trimester of pregnancy may occasionally result in miscarriage, so exposure should be avoided.

Physician-developed and -monitored.
Original Date of Publication: 01 Sep 2000
Reviewed by: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.
Last Reviewed:

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This page last modified: 27 Jul 2010

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