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Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

HFMD is a viral infection caused by a virus from the enterovirus group called coxsackie virus.  It causes a fever and a blister-like rash that occurs on the hands, feet and in the mouth.  Symptoms can also include poor appetite (not feeling hungry), runny nose and sore throat.  The rash often shows up 1 or 2 days after these symptoms occur.  Persons can be infected with the virus and have no symptoms.  HFMD occurs more often in the summer and early fall.

Anyone can get HFMD, but it mostly occurs in infants and young children.  The virus is spread from person-to-person by direct contact with body fluids from infected persons.  Body fluids that can spread the virus are nose and throat fluids, fluid from blisters, and stool of infected persons.  People are contagious during the 7 days after symptoms start.  The period between infection and the start of symptoms is 3 to 7 days.  Infected persons who do not look ill can also spread the virus to others.  HFMD should not be confused with a different disease that affects cattle, sheep, and pigs called “foot and mouth disease”

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is common in children under 5 years old, but anyone can get it.

The illness is usually not serious, but it is very contagious. It can spread quickly at schools and day care centers.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is not a reportable disease in Oklahoma.

  • Good personal cleanliness, including hand washing, is the best way to prevent infection with coxsackie virus, especially after contact with a likely source such as after changing a diaper.
  • Contaminated objects, such as changing tables and toys, should be cleaned with soap and water, then disinfected with a bleach solution.  One gallon of water plus ¼ cup of bleach will kill viruses on surfaces, however this solution needs to be mixed daily to work properly.
  • Healthcare workers should wear disposable gloves when handling sheets or clothes soiled with the feces or urine of persons who are ill.

Treat symptoms and prevent dehydration. 

Take over the counter medcations to relive fever and pain caused by mouth sores. These medications can include acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Never give aspirin to children. 

Drink enough liquids. Mouth sores make it painful to swallow, so your child may not want to drink much. Make sure they drink enough to stay hydrated.

When to see a healthcare provider

  • Your child is not able to drink normally and you’re worried they might be getting dehydrated.
  • Your child’s fever lasts longer than 3 days.
  • Your child has a weakened immune system (body’s ability to fight germs and sickness).
  • Symptoms are severe.
  • Your child is very young, especially younger than 6 months