Hand Foot Mouth Disease in Adults

Hand Foot and Mouth in Adults

Hand Foot and Mouth Symptoms in Adults

Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a common childhood disease, but can also affect adults. HFMD may sound like Foot and Mouth Disease but they are actually not the same, as the latter affects cattle in general and not human beings. While HFMD is a common and self-limiting disease, people who are inflicted might find this alarming. Read more on the general background of HFMD, what you can do to treat it, and how to prevent it.

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

HFMD is typically characterized by a rash that affects the hand, foot and mouth. Whether the inflicted person is an adult or a child, the same set of signs and symptoms occur. The rash may be accompanied by blisters or vesicles. Flu-like symptoms are typical of viral infections. Mild fever may be expected, as well as general body malaise, sore throat, and diminished appetite.

The signs and symptoms of HFMD may last for 5 to 7 days. The lesions may spread at the lower calf region and the buttocks, but are mostly limited to the three areas mentioned above.

What causes Hand Foot Mouth Disease?

Hand foot mouth disease is basically a viral disease caused mainly by the Coxsackie virus A-16. Enterovirus 71 may also be an infectious agent to HFMD, but on a very rare basis.

How is Hand Foot Mouth Disease transmitted?

HFMD is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s saliva, stool, or bodily fluids.  As opposed to common belief, HFMD is not contacted from animals or pets. If a child or adult has a very low immune system, the occurrence of the viral infection is more likely compared to a person who is well and healthy.

The disease has an average incubation period of 6 days from the time of contact to the infectious agent. The typical rash may initially be seen on the first day of the disease, most commonly in the inner cheek and gum areas. About 2 days after, mild fever may occur and the rash may have already been spread to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The first week of the disease is the most contagious period.

How is Hand Foot Mouth Disease diagnosed?

There are currently no specific laboratory tests for HFMD. Most typically, the characteristic signs and symptoms of HFMD is enough to diagnose the diseases.

How is Hand Foot Mouth Disease treated?     HFMD is a self-limiting disease, and its treatment management is aimed at addressing the physical signs and symptoms. Antibiotics are not typically given, as it is a viral infection. Anti-viral medications may be given, but not routinely prescribed. Meanwhile, you can do the following to manage HFMD:


  • Fever. Antipyretics may be given to help alleviate the fever. However, it is important to note that aspirin should not be given to children, as it can be a risk factor for heart diseases. For adults, any type of antipyretics may be taken. For non-pharmaceutical approach to fever, tepid sponge baths may be given.  Fever may also be related to dehydration, thus increasing oral fluids to 2 to 3 litres per day is advised.
  • Poor appetite. Loss in appetite is mainly due to the rashes in the oral area. To help relieve the discomfort of the rash, it is best to prevent fruit juices and sodas, as they are irritants. It is best to drink water rather than juices. To help compensate for the nutritional needs, small frequent feedings given every 2 hours may be advised.
  • Sore throat. This can be managed by saline mouth gargles done twice or thrice a day. Saline washes can be prepared at home by mixing a pinch of salt to one glass of water. Be wary of using commercial mouth gargles, as the alcohol content may be irritating to the mouth rash.

What are the complications of Hand Foot Mouth Disease?

HFMD is not a serious disease, but complications may occur. Viral meningitis may be a possible complication of HFMD. If a person afflicted with the disease experience nuchal rigidity, or stiff neck, it is best to contact your nearest physician, as this is the most common symptom that heralds viral meningitis.

What can I do to prevent Hand Foot Mouth Diseases?

There are currently no vaccines for HFMD. However, hand washing is yet the simplest and most effective way of combatting HFMD. Hand washing should be done before and after using the toilet, before eating, and after doing activities that might be dirty. While you cannot completely stay away from afflicted persons, observing strict hand washing may be of great help to prevent HFMD.

Leave a Reply