What is hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease gets its name from the blister-like rash that forms on the hands, feet and mouth. The rash can actually appear anywhere on the body, including the trunk, extremities, genitals and buttocks. A virus causes this very infectious disease. It tends to spread quickly among children in day care and schools.

Who might get hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Infants and children younger than five are most likely to get hand, foot and mouth disease. Still, older children and even grownups can get it. It’s possible to catch the virus multiple times.

How long is hand, foot and mouth disease contagious?

You’re most contagious during the first few days of the illness, often before the rash appears. The blisters usually dry up in about 10 days. You’re less likely to spread it to others once the blisters dry up. However, the virus can live in stool for weeks after the rash goes away.

Is hand, foot, and mouth disease the same as foot-and-mouth disease?

No. Foot-and-mouth disease is also known as hoof-and-mouth disease because it only affects livestock. Cows, sheep, goats and pigs can get it — but humans can’t. Different viruses cause the two diseases.

What causes hand, foot and mouth disease? How does it spread?

Viruses belonging to the enterovirus family cause hand, foot and mouth disease. Most often, a strain of the coxsackie virus is to blame. The disease is highly contagious and spreads through:

  • Airborne droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs.
  • Contact with an infected person’s stool (poop) and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.
  • Direct contact with an infected person’s blisters.
  • Kissing or hugging someone who has the virus.
  • Sharing eating utensils, cups, towels or clothing.
  • Touching contaminated toys, surfaces, doorknobs or other items and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

What are the symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease?

Symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease typically appear within three to seven days after exposure. When the illness starts, you or your child might have a mild fever, sore throat, runny nose and little appetite. After a couple of days, these flu-like symptoms go away and these new symptoms develop:

  • Itchy rash on the palms of the hand, soles of the feet, knees, elbows, genitals or butt cheeks.
  • Painful mouth sores.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

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