Hand, foot and mouth disease

What is it? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

Sometimes confused with foot and mouth (the disease that affects livestock), hand, foot and mouth disease is a completely different illness. Caused by a type of virus called enterovirus, it's usually quite mild, although very contagious, and is characterised by a rash of spots on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It can sometimes spread to the legs and buttocks.

The disease is commonest amongst under-10s, although it's not unknown in older children and adults. Generally speaking, the older the patient, the milder the symptoms.

Hand foot and mouth disease 474

What are the symptoms of Hand, foot and mouth disease?

The main symptom is a rash of flat or raised spots, some blistered, on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It's not itchy but is very specific. You can also develop mouth ulcers and a sore throat and fever, and feel generally under the weather. Lots of people feel quite well, though. In rare cases, hand, foot and mouth can progress to mild viral meningitis, from which most people make a complete recovery, although it can take time. What are the treatments and remedies of Hand, foot and mouth disease? Hand, foot and mouth usually clears up without any treatment in 7-10 days. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can help ease discomfort and bring down a high temperature. Eating soft, cold foods such as ice cream and chilled yogurt can help ease the pain of mouth ulcers.

This guide 

The information in this Bounty A-Z of Family Health is not a substitute for an examination, diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, midwife, health visitor or any other qualified health professional. If in doubt, always speak to a doctor.

Bounty will not be held responsible or liable for any injury, loss, damage, or illness, however this occurs or appears, after using the information given on this website and in particular the A-Z of Family Health.

Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net


Hand, foot and mouth disease