CareNow® - March 04, 2024

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is a common viral illness that primarily impacts infants and children — especially those under five years old. However, it can affect adults also. While typically mild, the disease can be uncomfortable and is extremely contagious.

If your child is in daycare or a school setting, you’ve likely received an alert that a child in class has hand, foot and mouth disease. So, how can you tell if your child has the disease? And what should you do if you notice symptoms? Keep reading for everything you need to know about hand, foot and mouth disease.

What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is caused by various enteroviruses, a type of virus very common in children. It typically presents with symptoms such as fever, sore throat, and characteristic sores or blisters on the hands, feet and inside the mouth.

These painful blisters can make eating and drinking uncomfortable for those with the disease. It’s most prevalent in children under the age of 5, although it can occur in older children and adults as well.

Is hand, foot and mouth contagious?

Yes, hand, foot and mouth disease is highly contagious. The virus spreads through close personal contact, respiratory droplets, and contact with contaminated surfaces.

This means that the disease can easily spread in settings where children gather, such as daycare centers and schools. Good hygiene practices, such as regular handwashing and avoiding close contact with infected individuals, are crucial for preventing transmission.

Does urgent care treat hand, foot and mouth?

Urgent care centers can provide treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease. While there is no specific antiviral medication for it, urgent care providers can offer supportive care to alleviate hand, foot and mouth disease symptoms and prevent complications. Treatment may include:

Pain relief:

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce fever and alleviate discomfort from mouth sores.

Fluid replacement:

Ensuring adequate hydration is essential, especially if mouth sores make it painful to swallow. Urgent care professionals may recommend oral rehydration solutions or intravenous fluids for severe cases.

Symptom management:

Topical treatments or mouth rinses containing anesthetic agents can help alleviate pain from mouth sores. Additionally, maintaining good oral hygiene can promote healing and prevent secondary infections.

If you or your child have been exposed to hand, foot and mouth disease and need a proper diagnosis or treatment, CareNow® urgent care has hundreds of locations around the country — all open after hours and on the weekend.

Learn more about Urgent Care services

How to tell if your child has hand, foot and mouth

Hand, foot and mouth disease typically manifests with several distinct symptoms. You may notice all of these symptoms or just a few. Your child may have hand, foot and mouth disease if you notice:

  • Fever: A high temperature is often one of the initial signs of the disease.
  • Sore throat: Your child may complain of a sore throat or have difficulty swallowing.
  • Mouth sores: Small, painful blisters or ulcers may develop inside the mouth, particularly on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks.
  • Rash: Red spots or small blisters may appear on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or other parts of the body.
  • Irritability: Young children may become more irritable or fussy due to discomfort from mouth sores.

What does a hand, foot and mouth rash look like?

Hand, foot and mouth disease presents with distinct rash characteristics. When a rash is caused by the disease, it primarily affects the palms of the hands and soles of the feet and may also appear on the buttocks. In contrast, other rashes might occur on different parts of the body.

The rash typically consists of red blisters filled with fluid that often peel, leaving behind ulcers or sores with a reddish base. Other rashes may vary in appearance, such as being raised, flat, itchy or non-itchy, depending on the underlying cause.

A hand, foot and mouth disease rash is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as fever and mouth sores. This combination of symptoms helps differentiate it from other rashes.

How is hand, foot and mouth disease treated?

Typically, the disease is managed at home through various measures. You can provide acetaminophen or ibuprofen to alleviate any discomfort or irritability in your child, avoiding aspirin due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.

Cold foods like ice cream, smoothies and popsicles can help numb the affected areas and ease swallowing difficulties. It's important to keep blisters on the hands or feet clean and uncovered, washing them with lukewarm soap and water and applying antibiotic ointment if a blister pops to prevent infection. You should also be sure your child stays hydrated.

When to see a doctor for hand, foot and mouth disease

Consider seeking medical attention if your child with the disease experiences signs of dehydration, such as decreased urination, dry mouth or lethargy. Additionally, see a medical provider if the child has a fever lasting more than three days, exhibits symptoms of neck or chest pain, difficulty swallowing or shows signs of infection such as pus, drainage or swelling.

Seeking hand, foot and mouth disease treatment when needed is an important step in preventing complications from happening. If you need medical attention, urgent care centers are equipped to provide supportive care for hand, foot and mouth disease. 

While the condition typically resolves on its own within a week, seeking medical attention can help manage symptoms and ensure proper hydration, especially in severe cases.

If you need convenient care after hours or on the weekend, consider visiting your local CareNow® urgent care clinic. With more than 225 locations throughout the country, our medical providers are ready to see you when you need it most.

CareNow® offers comprehensive and accessible healthcare through its extensive clinic network, convenient Web Check-In® service, and UCA accreditation, making it a dependable option for medical needs. Visit our website to locate the nearest clinic to you.

Find a CareNow® Near You