Hand Foot & Mouth Disease- the top 10 key facts for parents & carers

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1-     It can be caused by a number of different viruses-  Coxsackievirus A16 is the most common cause and Enterovirus 71 is the second-most common. Because more than one virus can lead to Hand Foot and Mouth disease, unfortunately it’s possible to get it more than once!!

2-     Usually it occurs in children less than 5 years old, but can occasionally occur in older kids or adults

3-     Symptoms usually start 3 to 7 days after catching the virus and can last from 7 to 10 days. The common signs and symptoms include:

  • high temperature (fever)
  • sore throat
  • blisters inside the mouth, on the tongue, palms of the hands, fingers, soles of the feet and nappy area (these blisters are not itchy like chickenpox blisters)
  • reduced appetite (drinking and eating may be painful because of the mouth blisters)
  • tiredness

4-     It is NOT the same as “Foot and Mouth disease” which affects livestock such as cattle.

5-     It is highly contagious, and is spread by exposure to fluid from inside the blisters, from the nose, mouth or chest, which are spread from sneezing and coughing. It may also be present in a child’s bowel movements for several weeks after the infection. Spread of the virus is lessened by washing hands after touching bodily fluids, and not sharing items such as cutlery, drinking cups, towels, toothbrushes.

6-     Children should stay home from school or child care until the fluid in the blisters has dried up.

7-     Hand Foot and Mouth disease is NOT dangerous to pregnant women or their unborn babies

8-     Complications are very rare, but viral meningitis/encephalitis are possible- therefore if a child with Hand foot and mouth disease develops severe headaches, neck stiffness or becomes sensitive to light, they should be immediately assessed by a doctor.

9-     There is no specific treatment. Because it is a virus, antibiotics will not work. Pain relief can be given for mouth blisters. Ask your pharmacist or family doctor about what medicines are helpful. It’s important to ensure a child is well hydrated- so plenty of fluids are advised. The blisters dry naturally- they should not be pierced or squeezed.

10-   A vaccine has been developed but is not yet widely used or available.

For more information go to:

  • your family doctor (GP) or Maternal and Child Health Nurse
  • www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/hand_foot_and_mouth_disease_coxsackie_virus
  • www.health.vic.gov.au/ideas
  • www.cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth/index.html

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