Bill Pay



Preventing Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Kids

As a parent, keeping your little one healthy is always top of mind. But sometimes, those pesky viruses seem to sneak up on us, no matter how hard we try. Hand, foot and mouth disease is one of those sneaky culprits that can leave your child feeling miserable with painful sores and a fever.

I know, it’s not exactly a fun topic to think about. But trust me, understanding how to prevent and manage this common childhood illness can save you a whole lot of stress and heartache down the road.

So, let’s talk about what you can do to keep your kiddo safe from hand, foot and mouth disease. Because let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than seeing your little one in pain. But with a few simple steps, you can help them stay healthy and happy – and isn’t that what every parent wants?

NextCare is one of the nation’s largest providers of urgent care and occupational medical services. With 170+ clinics in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming, we offer exceptional, affordable care to patients across the country.

Understanding Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Understanding Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common viral infection that primarily affects young children under 5. But don’t let the name fool you – it’s not the same as foot-and-mouth disease that affects cattle, pigs and sheep.

This mild but highly contagious illness can be a real pain, literally, causing sore throat, fever and painful mouth sores. The telltale signs are red, blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks. A skin rash with red spots (and sometimes blisters) can also pop up on the palms, soles and even the buttocks.

Causes of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

So what’s behind this pesky disease? A group of viruses called enteroviruses, most often the Coxsackievirus A16 and Enterovirus 71. These tiny invaders spread like wildfire, especially in daycares, preschools and other places where little ones gather.

Common Symptoms

The symptoms of hand-foot-and-mouth disease usually rear their ugly head 3-6 days after exposure. It often starts with a fever, reduced appetite, sore throat and general feeling of being unwell.

Within a day or two, painful mouth sores can develop. These can make it tough for your little one to swallow. At the same time, a skin rash with flat or raised red spots may appear on the palms of hands, soles of feet and sometimes the bum.

While it’s no picnic, the good news is that hand-foot-and-mouth disease is usually mild and clears up on its own within 7-10 days. In the meantime, keep your kiddo comfortable and hydrated. Popsicles, ice cream and cold drinks can help soothe a sore throat and mouth pain.

How Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease Spreads

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease spreads like gossip at a high school reunion. This highly contagious virus is transmitted through close personal contact, respiratory droplets (from a cough or sneeze), and contact with contaminated surfaces like toys or doorknobs.

Modes of Transmission

The main modes of transmission for this pesky virus are:

  • Person-to-person contact: Hugging, kissing, or even shaking hands with an infected person can spread the virus.
  • Respiratory droplets: Coughing and sneezing unleashes a spray of viral-laden droplets that can infect others nearby.
  • Contaminated surfaces: The virus can live on surfaces for hours. Touching a contaminated toy, doorknob or other object and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth can lead to infection.
  • Fecal-oral route: The virus can spread through contact with an infected person’s poop, like when changing a diaper.

The most contagious phase is during the first week of illness. But here’s the kicker – even after symptoms resolve, the virus can still be shed in poop for weeks. So good hand hygiene is crucial, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers.

Risk Factors for Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

While anyone can catch hand-foot-and-mouth disease, some are more prone to it than others. The main risk factor is being under 5 years old. Daycares, preschools and other places with young children are hotspots for outbreaks.

Older kids and adults can still get the virus, but it’s less common since most have built up antibodies from previous exposure. However, teens and adults with weakened immune systems are at higher risk.

Other risk factors include:

  • Attending or working in a daycare or preschool
  • Having close contact with infected persons
  • Poor hygiene and handwashing habits
  • Weakened immune system

Outbreaks are most common in summer and fall in the US, but can happen year-round in tropical climates. So if you have little ones, it’s important to be vigilant about prevention, especially during peak season at childcare settings and schools.

Preventing Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And when it comes to hand-foot-and-mouth disease, good hygiene is your best defense. Here are some tips to keep this pesky virus at bay:

Importance of Handwashing

Handwashing is like kryptonite to viruses. Teach kids to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, blowing their nose, and before eating.

No soap and water? Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. But remember, hand sanitizer isn’t a substitute for good old-fashioned handwashing.

Other preventive measures include:

  • Disinfecting high-touch surfaces and shared toys
  • Avoiding close contact with infected persons
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow
  • Keeping kids home when sick

I know it’s easier said than done with curious little ones who touch everything and put their hands in their mouths. But trust me, instilling good hygiene habits early on can save you a lot of grief (and sick days) down the road.

Managing Symptoms of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

If despite your best efforts, your little one still catches hand-foot-and-mouth disease, don’t panic. While it’s no fun, it’s usually mild and goes away on its own within a week or so. The name of the game is managing symptoms and keeping your kiddo comfortable.

There’s no specific treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Antibiotics won’t help since it’s a viral infection. But there are things you can do to ease symptoms:

  • Offer cold, soft foods like popsicles, ice cream, smoothies and applesauce to soothe painful mouth sores
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain and fever (but never aspirin in children)
  • Use OTC numbing mouth sprays or gels
  • Keep your child hydrated with ice water, milk or electrolyte solutions

Resist the urge to pop those pesky blisters – it can make the infection worse. If symptoms don’t improve after 10 days or your child is dehydrated, it’s time to call the pediatrician. Rarely, complications like viral meningitis can occur, especially in kids with weakened immune systems.

Seasonal Prevalence

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease can strike year-round, but it tends to peak in summer and early fall in the US. Outbreaks often occur in childcare settings and schools where the virus can spread like wildfire among little ones.

The exact timing and duration of outbreaks can vary from year to year. But in general, cases start to rise in June, peak in August, and trail off through the fall.

Of course, this doesn’t mean your kid is off the hook the rest of the year. The virus can still rear its ugly head, especially in tropical climates where there’s no real “season.”

The best offense is a good defense. So no matter the time of year, it’s important to practice good hygiene, especially frequent handwashing. And if an outbreak hits your child’s daycare or school, be extra vigilant about prevention and keep an eye out for symptoms.

Complications from Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

For most kids, hand-foot-and-mouth disease is more of a nuisance than a serious threat. But in rare cases, complications can occur, especially in children with weakened immune systems.

One potential complication is viral meningitis, an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms may include severe headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, and fever. While scary, viral meningitis is usually less severe than bacterial meningitis and resolves without specific treatment.

Another rare complication is encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain itself. This can cause seizures, confusion, and even paralysis. Encephalitis is more common with Enterovirus 71 than other strains.

Dehydration is the most common complication, especially if mouth sores make it painful to drink. Signs include decreased urine output, dry mouth, fatigue, and dizziness. Severe dehydration may require IV fluids.

The good news is that serious complications are very rare. But it’s important to know the signs and seek medical care if you’re concerned. Kids with weakened immune systems from conditions like leukemia or HIV are at higher risk and may need closer monitoring.

Key Takeaway:

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a common viral infection in young kids, causing fever, sore throat, and painful mouth sores. It’s highly contagious through personal contact and contaminated surfaces. Prevent it with good hygiene like frequent handwashing and disinfecting toys. If your child gets it, focus on keeping them comfortable.

FAQs in Relation to Preventing Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Children

How to avoid getting hand, foot, and mouth from your child?

Wash hands often with soap. Clean surfaces with chlorine bleach. Avoid close contact when possible.

Do parents need to stay home if kids have hand, foot, and mouth?

If symptoms are severe or you develop mouth sores yourself, staying home helps prevent spreading the virus.

When is hand-foot-and-mouth no longer contagious?

The disease spreads easily but becomes less contagious after fever subsides and blisters dry up.

How can kids prevent foot-and-mouth disease?

Avoid sharing items like toys or eating food together. Teach them good hygiene practices such as frequent handwashing.


Preventing hand, foot and mouth disease in children comes down to a few key things: good hygiene, avoiding close contact with infected individuals, and keeping an eye out for those telltale symptoms.

It’s not always easy, especially when your little one just wants to play with their friends. But trust me, those extra hand washes and keeping them home when they’re sick can make a world of difference.

And if your child does come down with hand, foot and mouth disease, don’t panic. With a little TLC and some over-the-counter remedies, they’ll be back to their playful selves in no time.

Remember, you’ve got this. By staying informed and taking those preventive steps, you’re giving your child the best shot at staying healthy and happy. And that’s what matters most.

Discover More

Category specific lead-in for related illness, in this instance Allergies. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec eu ipsum ac magna rutrum scelerisque id tincidunt sem.