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Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common, yet contagious viral infection in children under 5 years old. It can spread quickly at schools and daycare centers. 


According to the Department of Preventive Medicine – Ministry of Health, even though HFMD is most common in young children under the age of 5, teenagers or adults may also get the virus. HFMD is most commonly caused by 2 virus strains – Enterovirus 71 (EV71) and Coxsackievirus (A16). Since the disease is caused by viruses, the infection is contagious. Patients with HFMD are usually most contagious during the first week of the viral infection. However, people possibly spread the virus to others when their symptoms have already disappeared, or even if there are no symptoms. 

The transmission of the viruses can also be indirect rather than just by touching an infected person. A person can also indirectly get HFMD by contact with virus-contained droplets, such as nasal secretion, saliva, tears, feces, or touching any objects of an infected person. HFMD is more common to see in the summertime and the early fall

Symptoms of HFMD

Symptoms of HFMD include:

    • Fever
    • Sore throat
    • Difficulty swallowing (due to sores in the mouth)
    • Fatigue 
    • Fussiness in infants and toddlers
    • Loss of appetite
    • Fluid-filled red, white, or grey blisters are concentrated mainly on the lips, tongue, gums, fingers, palms, toes, and feet. Regardless of the color, the lesions are painful and itching.


Even though HFMD is contagious, it is normally a minor illness that will resolve after 7 to 10 days. Serious complications of HFMD are rare. However, in some rare cases, severe complications may include:

    • Dermatitis, inflammation of subcutaneous adipose tissue, etc
    • Viral (aseptic) meningitis
    • Girls with HFMD may have vaginitis, cervicitis, etc.
    • Encephalitis 
    • Arthritis gastroenteritis
    • Pneumonia
    • Hepatitis
    • Myocarditis
    • Paralysis

Treatment for HFMD

This minor clinical syndrome usually heals after 7 to 10 days without any special treatment needed. Parents can take care of their children at home during their sick time. Some home remedies to speed up the recovery include: 

    • Limit HFMD symptoms with Paracetamol or Ibuprofen. To relieve the itching, parents can use special anti-itch creams or gel. Please note to understand your medication and use it properly, make sure to ask your doctor before any medication usage.
    • Prepare a healthy and balanced diet for your children to boost their immune system. Patients should avoid acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits and juice, or soda. Soft foods that do not need much chewing are good for people with HFMD. 
    • Patients rest for the immune system to improve and function effectively.
    • Make sure the patient remains well-hydrated.
    • Help your child keep their hands, feet, and mouth clean to ensure personal hygiene. Do not let children touch their eyes, nose, or mouth with dirty hands.
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces, furniture, and shared items. 
    • Check with the doctor if your child’s symptoms do not improve or worsen after 7 to 10 days. 
    • Wash your hands carefully, especially after touching the diapers or wiping the child’s nose. 
    • Do not have close contact, such as hugging and kissing, or use shared items with others who have HFMD.
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