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Hand, Foot and Moouth Disease

Stomatitis vesiculosa epidemica (Latin name)

By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a mild viral infection. The child has blisters on hands, feet and in the mouth. Some children have a light fever, headache and a cold. The illness lasts for 1 week. It requires no treatment.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is not very common. It especially attacks small children. The illness is caused by a certain virus (Coxsakievirus). It occurs most often during summer and fall. Hand, foot and mouth disease has nothing to do with the foot-and-mouth disease animals have. The illness is only found with humans.

The illness is not dangerous and most children barely notice that they have it. The child is unaffected by the illness and plays, watches TV or listens to music as usual. Most children have a light fever, headache, diarrhoea and a cold, a couple of days before the rash appears.

The rash appears on hands and feet as 2-4 millimetre elongated blisters surrounded by a red ring. The blisters especially appear on heals and around the root of the nails. In the mouth, blisters appear that quickly bursts and become wounds. The blisters in the mouth bother the child and stings, especially when it drinks or eats. There is no reason to use mouthwash even though the blisters in the mouth turn yellowish – it is a natural part of the process. A few children have blisters other places, for example on the arms or on the bottom.

The illness lasts a week or so. The illness requires no treatment. It disappears by itself.

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The illness is highly contagious. First and foremost, it infects from the child’s faeces to hands and from there to other children but it can also infect through the air via coughing and sneezing. It takes 3 to 6 days from the child has been exposed to contagion until it falls ill.

Day care:
Since the illness is highly contagious and the child is contagious a long time before it falls ill, it is impossible to prevent the illness from spreading. Typically, many children are affected at the same time. Keep the child at home until its temperature is normal and the child can participate in its usual activities.


It is a good idea to give the child antipyretics by bedtime, since it will give the child a calmer sleep.

What can you do?

If the child has a fever, it should be dressed lightly and stay in a cool room to bring the temperature down. The child should have plenty to drink, since it loses fluid when it has a fever. The child does not have to stay in bed, if it prefers moving around and playing.

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If you have doubts about whether the child has hand, foot and mouth disease.

Contact the doctor immediately

This is never necessary.