Also known as:
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a very common viral infection.
The disease causes blisters on the hands, feet and in the mouth, which is how it gets its name.
It normally affects children aged 10 or younger.
The infection is contagious, so it’s best to keep kids at home until their blisters have dried out and the other symptoms have cleared.
What causes hand, foot and mouth disease?
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral infection that can be found in the saliva, snot/nasal discharge, nasal phlegm, poo and of course the blisters of infected children.
If another child comes into contact with any of these, whether directly or via a surface they have touched, they can catch the virus.
Hand, foot and mouth disease symptoms
Sore, red blisters in their mouth
Blisters on the palms of their hands and bottoms of their feet – usually these won’t be itchy or sore like the ones in their mouth
Blisters on their arms and legs
A sore throat
A sore mouth
Loss of appetite
In severe cases, a rash can break out over the child’s body, or can lead to complications with their heart or brain. This is very uncommon.
Hand, foot and mouth disease treatment
Usually hand, foot and mouth disease just needs to run its course.
Paracetamol can be given to children if they are in a lot of pain or have a fever, but be sure to read the dosage on the packet or speak to the pharmacist first.
Avoid giving your child anything that may aggravate the blisters in their mouth like sour, spicy or salty foods.
Make sure they’re drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated.
If you're pregnant
Hand, foot and mouth disease in adults is very uncommon.
If a pregnant person catches the virus right before giving birth, it is possible for them to pass it on to their baby. These symptoms will most likely be mild.
In extremely rare cases, pregnant people who catch hand, foot and mouth disease can have miscarriages.
If you have contact with hand, foot and mouth disease while you’re pregnant, or if you develop any kind of rash, see your doctor or lead maternity carer – just to be safe.
Common over-the-counter medications
Paracetamol can be used to help with fever and pain.
How long does hand, foot and mouth disease last?
More often than not, it lasts less than a week – usually about 3–7 days.
Should I see a doctor?
You should take your child to the doctor if:
They’re dehydrated – less that 4 wet nappies over 24 hours is a good way to tell
The pain in their mouth is preventing them from drinking
Their symptoms get worse after several days
While hand, foot and mouth disease is rare in adults, if you’re pregnant and have some symptoms, you should see a doctor.
Washing yours and your child’s hands regularly and thoroughly is the best way to protect them against hand, foot and mouth disease.
Keep your child home from childcare or school until blisters have dried. If blisters are able to be covered and the child is feeling well, they won't need to be excluded.'' (Source: Ministry of health)
If you have another child with hand, foot and mouth disease, take special care to wash your hands after changing their nappy or taking them to the toilet. The virus can still be found in their feces for a few weeks.
Clean toys regularly and be particularly careful of objects that kids have put in their mouths.
Hand, foot and mouth symptoms? Tend doctors can help
If you have flu symptoms and would like medical advice without needing to leave the house, you can book an online appointment with a Tend doctor through your app.
After the appointment, your doctor may advise that an additional, in-person appointment is required, to ensure you receive complete care. In some cases, we may require this before administering a prescription.
If this is the case, we'll book you for an in-person appointment at a time that suits you, at no extra charge.
Clinically reviewed by: Dr Mataroria Lyndon
Date of review: 5th August 2021