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Hand Foot and Mouth disease

closeup face of boy with hand foot and mouth disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common childhood illness that can also affect adults. It usually clears up by itself in 7 to 10 days.

Check if it’s hand, foot and mouth disease
The first signs of hand, foot and mouth disease can be:

  • A sore throat
  • A high temperature, above 38C
  • Not wanting to eat

Your child will then:

  • Have ulcers appear in their mouth and on their tongue. These can be painful and make it difficult to eat or drink
  • Have red spots which usually appear on their hands and feet, which later develop into blisters. These blisters are grey in the centre and can be painful

It’s possible to get hand, foot and mouth disease more than once.

How to treat hand, foot and mouth disease yourself
Your child can’t take antibiotics or medicines to cure hand, foot and mouth disease – it has to run its course. It usually gets better in 7 to 10 days.

To help with the symptoms, ensure your child:

  • Drinks plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration – avoid acidic drinks such as fruit juice
  • Eats soft foods like soup – avoid hot and spicy foods
  • Takes paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the symptoms

Speak to your pharmacist for advice about treatments, such as mouth ulcer gels, sprays and mouthwashes to relieve the pain. They can tell you which ones are suitable for children.

Take your child to see your GP if:

  • Their symptoms don’t improve after 7 to 10 days
  • Your child has a very high temperature, or feels hot and shivery
  • You’re worried about your child’s symptoms
  • Your child is dehydrated – they’re not peeing as often as usual

Hand, foot and mouth disease is infectious. Check with your GP surgery before going. They may suggest a phone consultation.

How to stop hand, foot and mouth disease spreading
Hand, foot and mouth disease is easily passed on to other people. It’s spread in coughs, sneezes and poo.
Your child will be infectious from a few days before they have any symptoms, but they’re most likely to give it to others in the first 5 days after symptoms start.

To reduce the risk of spreading hand, foot and mouth disease, ensure your child:

  • Washes their hands often with warm soapy water
  • Uses tissues to trap germs when they cough or sneeze
  • Bins used tissues as quickly as possible
  • Doesn’t share towels or household items – like cups or cutlery

Ensure you wash your child’s soiled bedding and clothing on a hot wash.

Staying off school or nursery
Keep your child off school or nursery while they are feeling unwell.
But as soon as they’re feeling better, they can go back to school or nursery. There’s no need to wait until all the blisters have healed. Keeping your child off for longer is unlikely to stop the illness spreading.

Visit the NHS website to find out more about how you can protect your family from hand foot and mouth disease.