hand foot and mouth disease transmission cont.

Is Hand Foot and Mouth Contagious?

Hand foot and mouth disease transmission

Hand Foot Mouth Disease, otherwise termed as HFMD, is a viral disease commonly affecting children. It is characterized by a rash in the hand, foot, or mouth. It is not to be confused with the Foot and  Mouth Disease, an animal disease that usually targets swine, sheep and cattle.

HFMD is caused by a virus called Coxsackievirus A16, a member of the enterovirus family. As opposed to the foot and mouth disease, HFMD is transmitted via person to person; it is not spread from animals. You can get HFMD when you come in direct contact with an infected person’s saliva, nose and throat discharges, fluid coming from the blisters,  and through the person’s stool.

HFMD is a mildly contagious disease. It is not life threatening and is self-limited. However, it is important to know the basic information relating to the disease.

What is Hand Foot Mouth Disease?

Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a viral infection affecting kids, particularly preschoolers. An alternative name for HFMD is coxsackievirus infection.

What causes Hand Foot Mouth Disease?

HFMD is caused by the coxsackievirus A16. The incubation period of the virus is about 3-7 days before the infected person begins to manifest its classic symptoms. The mode of transmission is person to person either through droplet transmission (from throat and nasal discharges) or through the fecal-oral route (from the infected person’s stool). Persons infected with HFMD are most contagious during the first week of illness.

What are the signs and symptoms of Hand Foot Mouth Disease?

The hallmark symptom of HFMD is a rash that develops on the hand, foot or mouth. Other symptoms include a mild to moderate fever, body malaise, loss of appetite, sore throat, and blisters accompanying the rash.

The disease usually starts with a mild fever, approximately reaching 101 to 102 degress farenheit. Small rashes, about 2 to 3 millimeters in diameter start to appear on the soles of the feet, palms of the hand, or the insides of the mouth and throat. Flu-like symptoms  are gradually felt such as generalized body weakness. The rash that develops in the mouth usually leads to sore throat and the primary reason for diminished appetite.

How is Hand Foot Mouth Disease diagnosed?

Typically blisters and rashes develop on  three main areas (hand, foot and mouth) are usually significant enough for doctors to say that it is HFMD. No specific laboratory examinations can confirm the diagnosis. However, complete blood counts may signify increased leukocytes, a tell-tale sign that an infection is plaguing the body.

How is Hand Foot Mouth Disease treated?

The treatment for HFMD is highly symptomatic. Antibiotic medications are not to be given as it is viral in nature. For fever, antipyretics such as acetaminophen is usually given. Aspirin is contraindicated for children below 12 years of age due to the high risk of developing Raynaud’s disease, a heart disease which is linked to aspirin intake during childhood.

Saline gargles also helps with the sore throat, as well as relieving the mouth sores. It is also important to increase the intake of oral fluids, particularly water, in order to prevent dehydration that normally occurs when fever is present. Be wary of giving juices and sodas, as this may sting the mouth ulcerations.

What is the duration of Hand Foot Mouth Disease?

HFMD is a self-limiting disease and is usually resolved after 5 to 7 days. It is not life threatening and prognosis is relevantly very good. The occurrence of the disease is usually during the summer or early fall. However, complications rarely occur such as developing viral meningitis, febrile seizures, and dehydration.

When do I need to seek medical help?

HFMD is not a serious disease and is in fact a common viral infection that affects mostly children, particularly preschoolers. It may also affect adults. Persons affected with HFMD need not be hospitalized unless the following symptoms are felt:

  • Stiff neck, a major sign of meningitis.
  • Febrile seizures, usually occuring with very high fever (more or less 40 degrees celsius)
  • Signs of dehydration such as dark colored urine, high fever, lethargy, and dry skin.

What can I do to prevent Hand Foot Mouth Disease?

The best prevention for any infectious disease is through proper hand washing. For children, it is best to teach them how and when to wash their hands; this may be done before and after eating, after toileting, and whenever hands are soiled. There are no vaccinations known to prevent HFMD to date.        Since the disease is transmitted from person to person via droplet and fecal-oral transmission, it is best to stay clear from persons known to have HFMD.

 Who are most at risk for Hand Foot Mouth Disease?

Children less than 10 years of age are commonly affected by HFMD. However, adults may also be inflicted with the disease. Typically, persons with suppressed immune systems are highly at risk for having the viral disease.

Persons who have been infected by HFMD normally develops a natural immunity from the disease. However, recurrences may happen when the exposed person’s immunity begins to diminish or fail.

 Hand Foot Mouth Disease in pregnancy

There are no significant evidences that link HFMD with congenital anomalies and abortion in pregnant women. However, babies born from mothers affected with HFMD during pregnancy may have high risk for neonatal infection.


Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a viral infection caused by an enterovirus called coxsackievirus A16. It is characterized by rashes developing on the hand, foot and mouth, and by flu-like symptoms. It commonly affects children below 10 years of age. HFMD can be caught through person to person contact, when one is directly in contact with an infected person’s nasal and mouth discharges, as well as the stool. HFMD usually occurs during the summer and early fall seasons, and are most contagious during the first week of illness. HFMD is not life threatening, however, complications may occur such as meningitis and seizure. Treatment for HFMD is symptomatic and may be resolved in a span of 5 to 7 days.

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