What is Hand, Food, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)?

Hand, food, and mouth disease is a common illness typically affecting younger children under the age of 5. However, adults can also become infected.   The disease causes fever, blisters and ulcers in the mouth, and a rash on the body.

What are symptoms of HFMD?

Some people may not show symptoms of HFMD but still spread the virus. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Reduced appetite
  • Malaise
  • Sores/ulcers in the mouth
  • Rash/blisters on the hands, feet, knees, elbows, buttocks, and/or genital area

What are some risks of HFMD?

Severe risks are not common but may include:

  • Meningitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Fingernail or toenail loss

What causes HFMD?

HFMD is caused by a virus belonging to the Enterovirus genus.

How is HFMD transmitted?

The virus can be found in respiratory secretions, blister fluid, and feces. The virus can pass through:

  • Contact with an infected person
  • Air (through respiratory secretions)
  • Contact with feces
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces
  • Rarely, it can be passed through water, such as a lake or pool

How is HFMD diagnosed?

Typically, a doctor will diagnose a patient based on their mouth blisters, age, and symptoms. Occasionally, a throat or feces sample will be necessary.

How is HFMD treated?

There is no specific treatment for HFMD. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be given to children (not aspirin), and mouth numbing sprays can be used to relieve blisters. An IV may be required if a person is dehydrated and has trouble swallowing due to the blisters.

How can I prevent HFMD?

  • Wash hands thoroughly and often, especially after using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • Disinfect items that are used often, including toys
  • Avoid close contact with a person infected with HFMD

For more information on HFMD, visit http://www.cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth/index.html.