Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral infection. It’s most common in babies and children younger than 5, but adults and older children can get it, too. It causes a rash on hands, feet and other body parts. It also causes painful sores inside the mouth.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is not the same as foot and mouth disease (also called hoof and mouth), which affects animals.

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What causes hand, foot and mouth disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is caused by a number of viruses. It spreads quickly through saliva and mucus. It can also spread through direct contact with open sores, feces and contaminated surfaces.

What are symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease symptoms usually show up three to seven days after exposure. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Red blisters on hands and feet
  • Loss of appetite
  • Painful sores in mouth
  • Irritability

How is hand, foot and mouth disease treated?

There is no specific medical treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease. It will typically clear up with no treatment within 10 days.

Over-the-counter or prescription treatments can be used to ease symptoms:

  • Lotions and ointments for rash and blisters
  • Pain medication for fever and discomfort (avoid aspirin)

These tips will help with mouth blisters:

  • Suck on frozen popsicles
  • Drink cold liquids (not carbonated)
  • Avoid citrus and fruit drinks
  • Avoid spicy, salty or acidic foods

Dehydration is a danger for children who can’t swallow because of mouth sores. Contact a healthcare provider if your child is not drinking enough or if overall symptoms don’t improve. Hand, foot and mouth disease can cause serious complications with pregnancy. Pregnant women who suspect they have been exposed should consult a healthcare provider immediately.

If your symptoms do not begin to improve within a few days, consult a healthcare provider. Visit your nearest CareNow® urgent care clinic for diagnosis and treatment.

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