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Hand-to-mouth disease, symptoms, risk and prevention

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Does your child have red spots on his or her hands and feet and annoying blisters on his or her mouth? Then you may have the syndrome known as hands, feet, and mouth. Don’t be alarmed, it’s a virus it’s contagious, but usually harmless and mild.

What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

The hand, foot and mouth virus is a contagious infectious disease in which red spots appear on the palms, the plants of the feet, and/or in the mouth. Spots can develop into blisters, which can be painful.

It occurs mainly to young children between 0 and 10 years old, with a peak seen in children between 1 and 5 years old. Hand, foot and mouth disease is generally harmless and mild in most children, some of them don’t even get sick. This virus is most common mainly in the summer and fall.

You may mistake it for the name as foot-and-mouth disease, but it’s not the same. Foot and mouth disease is caused by another virus and only occurs in livestock.

Cause of the hand, foot and mouth virus

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is caused by a virus. Several viruses can lead to this ailment, but most of the time it is coxsackievirus or an enterovirus. Like a cold virus, these viruses are transmitted by droplets that end up in the air when coughing or sneezing. The virus can also be transmitted to others through fluid from blisters or faeces. After a visit to the bathroom, the virus may, for example, end up on the faucet, download button, or door handle through your hands.


– One of your most common symptoms starts with a little fever.

– Your child may get snotty, with a sore throat and cough.

– You may have abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting with headache, diarrhea, and little desire to eat.

– Small red spots and blisters appear in the mouth after 12 to 36 hours.

– Break easily. Then they turn into painful sores. Food and drink are hard to eat.

– Subsequently, painful red spots and blisters appear on the palms and plants of the feet. They are 2 to 5 mm in size. Sometimes this doesn’t happen, or only a few blisters appear. The blisters heal in about a week.


Your doctor can usually diagnose the virus based on skin symptoms and abnormalities. No additional tests such as blood tests are required.

Newborn risk

For newborns who develop the hand, foot, and mouth virus within the first 10 days after birth, there is an increased risk that the disease may become complicated. Babies may have a high fever and become more easily dehydrated if the drink doesn’t go well due to painful wounds in the mouth. Fortunately, the disease is rare in newborns. Still, it’s not too much to stop your newborn baby from getting in touch with people who are sick, sneeze and cough more than normal. Even at the end of pregnancy, it’s good to pay attention to this, as this will prevent your baby from becoming infected when he or she is born.

Is it contagious?

The incubation period, or the time from the time of infection to the onset of symptoms of the disease, is 3 to 6 days. Not everyone infected with the virus has symptoms. However, the non-sick, symptomless child can transfer the virus to someone else. Someone who has had hand, foot and mouth disease can infect others a few days before they have symptoms, but also a few weeks or months later.

After experiencing this problem, your child will produce antibodies to the virus that caused the disease. That’s why it’s protected against this virus for a long time. However, because there are many different viruses that can cause this disease, it is not immune to it and can therefore contract it again.

What can you do about it?

This virus automatically heals between a couple of days and a couple of weeks. There is no specific treatment for this. If your child suffers from painful blisters, you can give him or her something for this ailment to sell at your usual pharmacy. If you have a fever, it’s very important to give more to drink and check that you urinate normally. Eating is less important, that will come when it’s better.

If your child has this virus, he or she doesn’t necessarily have to visit the pediatrician, although it never does too much to rule out something else. Also if you have doubts, if you’re worried or if your child has symptoms that you see getting worse or give you doubts about it, then, of course, it’s wise to go to his doctor.

Keep in mind that your child’s immune system should do his or her job. Antibiotic treatment is only helpful if stains start to light up and yellow scabs develop and is recommended by your doctor.

Practical tips to keep in mind

-If you have a fever give extra to drink. Eating is less important. If you want to drink little, try offering small amounts more often, for example, a few sips every fifteen minutes. If this doesn’t work and your child also urinates less, don’t stop seeing your doctor.

– Make sure your child gets enough rest. But you don’t have to stay in bed and you can also get out.

– If necessary, give him some remedy that you normally use for pain, so that he feels a little less sick and has less evil.

– It is best not to give you acidic drinks, such as fruit juice for example, as they can hurt wounds in the mouth.

– Children who feel well enough can go to daycare or school. Your son has already infected others before he gets sick. Keeping it at home to prevent infection from others doesn’t make sense. You should also talk to the center, as each school has its own protocols in front of different cases.

– Talk about it at your school. In this way, teachers can inform other parents that the disease is common and that they should consider this situation. Because your child can also easily get the virus.

– To try not to infect others: wash your hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom or changing your diaper.


Infection can’t always be prevented, but you can do several things to limit it:

– Hand hygiene and after coughing. By using tissues to cough and sneeze that you throw away immediately after use, you limit the spread of the virus. Also, wash your hands after sneezing or coughing.

Bathroom hygiene. Washing your hands well after a visit to the bathroom is important to prevent contamination and spread of the virus. Do this even if you’ve changed your little one’s diaper. Washing with hot water and soap is enough.

Clean the toys thoroughly. Due to moisture from blisters or saliva, the virus may end up in toys. Try washing frequently used toys daily with soap and water if someone in the family has the virus.

Ventilation. Good ventilation is recommended to prevent the spread of this virus.

Own towel. Don’t share towels or clothes with your child and use a clean towel and cloth daily. This prevents it from spreading through his body.

Can my child go to daycare or school with the virus?

If your child feels good, he or she can go to school without problems, it still depends on the protocol of each school. He’s already contagious before symptoms appear. Keeping it at home does not prevent the virus from spreading, as this has probably happened before. As I said earlier it is important to report to the school so that both teachers and other parents are aware of the situation and to be able to make the right decision, in many cases it is best for the little one to stay at home during those days, especially for his own comfort.

This virus is quite uncomfortable but usually in a few days disappears without problems. Also in case you have any doubts never stop going to the pediatrician to consult it.

All the information we give you in this article is indicative since each person is different so to establish a diagnosis and treatment it is essential that you go to your doctor.

Carolina González Ramos

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