Hand, foot and mouth disease is a highly contagious viral illness that mainly affects children under 10 years old and is especially common in childcare and kindergartens. It is caused by viruses called enteroviruses , most commonly the coxsackie virus.
Children should be kept away from school or childcare until the blisters have dried up, the rash has gone and fever has settled.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is not the same as foot-and-mouth disease, which affects farm animals.
The main symptoms are fever and tiny blisters in the mouth and on the hands and feet. Children may also have a sore throat.
Very rarely, hand food and mouth disease can cause a more serious infection. If your child has persistent fever (38°C or above) for 72 hours or more, is jerky, is breathing rapidly, is very tired or irritable or can’t walk properly or you are worried, seek medical attention immediately.
Symptoms usually clear up in 7 to 10 days, however there is no treatment to kill the virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease. It’s possible to make your child feel more comfortable by treating the symptoms with paracetamol, rest and plenty to drink. Don’t try to burst the blisters, let them dry naturally.
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Last reviewed: October 2018