Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease in Children: Causes, Diagnosis, and Complications

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a common viral illness that primarily affects infants and children, typically those under 5 years old. It is characterized by a distinctive rash on the hands and feet, as well as mouth sores.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The primary symptoms of HFMD include fever, mouth sores, and a skin rash. The rash usually appears on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet but can also occur on the buttocks, legs, and arms. The mouth sores begin as small red spots that may blister and become painful, leading to difficulties in eating or drinking. Children may also experience sore throat, reduced appetite, and malaise. Diagnosis is often based on the visible symptoms, particularly the characteristic rash and mouth sores. Healthcare providers may also take a throat swab or stool specimen to identify the virus responsible for the illness.

Causes and Transmission

HFMD is caused by viruses from the enterovirus family, most commonly the Coxsackievirus A16 and Enterovirus 71 (EV-A71). It spreads through person-to-person contact, respiratory droplets, and contact with contaminated surfaces. The disease is highly contagious, especially among children in daycare and school settings.


There is no specific medical treatment for HFMD. Management focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing dehydration. Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help with fever and pain. It’s important to maintain fluid intake, even when mouth sores make swallowing uncomfortable. Aspirin should never be given to children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.

Here are some home remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms of HFMD in toddlers:

  1. Hydration: Ensuring your child stays hydrated is crucial, especially if mouth sores make swallowing uncomfortable. Offer your child plenty of fluids like water, breast milk, or coconut water. Frozen coconut water cubes can also help soothe mouth sores and prevent dehydration
  2. Soft, Cool Foods: Offer your child soft foods that are easy to swallow, such as yogurt, pasta, pudding, applesauce, and chilled soups. Ice cream, sherbet, or ice pops can also provide relief for sore mouths
  3. Coconut Oil: Applying coconut oil gently on the rash and blisters may help speed up healing due to its antimicrobial and antiviral properties
  4. Epsom Salt Baths: Adding Epsom salts to your child’s bath water can soothe rashes on the body and help your child heal faster from HFMD symptoms
  5. Pain Relief: Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help with fever and pain. Aspirin should never be given to children due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome
  6. Avoid Irritating Foods and Drinks: Acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits and juices, can irritate mouth sores and should be avoided

Remember, these remedies are meant to alleviate symptoms and do not cure the disease. HFMD typically resolves on its own within 7 to 10 days. If your child’s symptoms worsen, if they are unable to drink normally, or if their fever lasts longer than 3 days, seek medical attention


Preventive measures include frequent handwashing with soap and water, avoiding close contact with infected individuals, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects. Children with HFMD should be encouraged to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus.


Complications from HFMD are rare but can include viral meningitis, encephalitis, or a more severe form of the disease caused by EV-A71. Dehydration is a concern if mouth sores significantly reduce fluid intake.


HFMD is a common childhood illness with a generally mild course, resolving within 7 to 10 days. While it can cause discomfort due to mouth sores and rash, serious complications are uncommon. Good hygiene practices and supportive care are the mainstays of managing and preventing the disease.

Chinonso Anyaehie

Chinonso Anyaehie

I'm a dedicated father of two, navigating the rewarding journey of parenthood. With a passion for sharing my experiences and knowledge, I created Parenting.ng, a comprehensive resource for parents. Here, I delve into a wide range of parenting topics, from child health and education to newborn care and developmental milestones. I believe in empowering parents with the information they need to make informed decisions about their children's well-being and development. Whether you're a new parent or have years of experience, join me as we explore the joys, challenges, and intricacies of raising the next generation.

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