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What is hand, foot & mouth disease?

Hand-foot-and-mouth is caused by a virus called an enterovirus. It is an illness that causes sores or blisters in or on the mouth, hands, feet, and sometimes the buttocks and legs.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is not the same as foot and mouth disease that affects animals.


Hand, foot and mouth disease are not usually serious, but children may have the following signs:

  • fever
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • not interested in eating or playing
  • small, painful sores in the mouth
  • a skin rash

The rash looks like red spots with a small blister on top. The rash is usually on the hands and feet but can appear on other body parts. Parents may get the disease from their children and not even realize it.


How is hand, foot & mouth disease spread?

Hand, foot and mouth disease can be spread in droplets coughed, sneezed or breathed into the air by someone with the disease or by contact with the feces of someone with the disease.

It can also be spread by touching objects, such as toys or tables with the virus on them, and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.


Hand-foot-and-mouth disease usually doesn't need treatment. You can use home care to help relieve your child's symptoms.  It may be possible to get the disease more than once. There is no vaccine. There are no special tests or treatments for pregnant women in contact with someone with hand, foot and mouth disease.

What to do if your child has hand, foot and mouth disease

At home:

  • If another child has hand, foot and mouth disease, watch your child for signs of the disease.
  • Wash your hands and your child’s hands carefully after you wipe your child’s nose, change a diaper or use the toilet.
  • Wash your hands often and always before and after preparing food.

Call the doctor if your child has any of the following signs:

  • a temperature of 38.5°C or higher and is less than 6 months of age
  • has a headache or sore throat
  • is listless, not interested in playing with toys or is unusually sleepy
  • has any other signs of illness that concern you

Children with hand, foot and mouth disease may go to the child care centre or school if they feel well enough to participate in activities.