Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease in Infants – Reasons, Signs & Treatment

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in Babies

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Gunjan Baweja (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts

Little children are always on an exploring spree and think nothing of picking things up from the floor, putting them in their mouth, and chewing them. This increases the chances of the child being affected by bacterial and viral diseases. One such disease is the Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease (HFMD). Let us look at the symptoms, causes, and remedies of HFMD to help you better understand how to handle affected children.

Video: Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in Babies

What is Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral disease that affects children between two and six years of age but may occur in infants and older children also. Afflicted kids develop sores on their hands, mouth and feet as a result of coming in contact with things that are carriers of harmful viruses and bacteria.

Sometimes, adults are also affected by this disease if their immune systems are not very strong.

Symptoms of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Infants

In children, HFMD starts with fever, loss of the child’s appetite, headaches, nausea, sore throat, and irritability.

One or two days after the fever, the child develops blister-like sores in the mouth – especially on the sides of their tongue, gums, in the back of his mouth, or the inner side of the cheeks. The sores are painful, cause discomfort, and will make the child irritable. The child might refuse to eat or drink because of the painful sores. The child might also develop rashes on the palms of hands, soles of the feet, and sometimes on the buttocks. The rashes appear to be small, flat, red-coloured dots, and later become blisters. Although they are painful, they are not itchy.

Causes Of Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease in Babies

HFMD causes can be primarily due to the following viruses:

  • Coxsackievirus A16, A 10 or A6
  • EV-71 or Enterovirus 71 or EV 71

These viruses belong to the Picornaviridae family and are contagious. It has been observed that adults with this illness might have been affected during their childhood too. It spreads faster in autumn and summer because of the warm weather.

Doctors believe that the virus first moves to the tissue within the mouth, close to the tonsils, and then moves down to the digestive system. It travels close to the glands or lymph nodes and further into the body, through the blood. The immune system prevents the virus from entering critical organs such as the brain.

Is HFMD a Contagious Disease & How Does It Spread?

HFMD is an extremely contagious viral disease. People affected by the virus can spread it in a week after the symptoms come up. Here are some of the ways through which the disease can spread:

1. Blisters

If the child comes in direct contact with the fluids that flow out from an infected person’s blisters, he will be affected by HFMD.

2. Saliva

One of the most common ways HFMD spreads is through the saliva of an infected person. Children share food and often eat using the same spoon and drink water from the same bottle. This increases the risk of getting infected through saliva.

3. Contaminated Droplets

Children are often infected by inhaling contaminated airborne droplets, especially when an infected person sneezes or coughs. If the virus is suspended in the air, there are chances of the child getting infected by breathing.

4. Faeces

The virus can be present in the faeces of the infected person for up to four weeks after the symptoms of HFMD have disappeared. Therefore, children can catch it at schools, child care centres, and other places where nappies are changed.

How Long Does HFMD Last?

An infected person does not display any symptoms immediately. It takes 3 to 6 days for the symptoms to appear. This period is referred to as the incubation period. The illness starts with fever, and in a day or two, blisters start appearing. These blisters break and disappear after a week. HFMD lasts between seven to ten days.

How HFMD is Diagnosed

Doctors check for the symptoms and observe the rashes or blisters. Sometimes, the doctor might require a throat swab, a stool or blood sample to confirm whether the child is infected with the disease.

HMFD Treatment

In most cases, the infection disappears without treatment. However, hand foot and mouth disease treatment can help ease discomfort. HFMD cure can include the usage of:

  • Ointments to soothe blisters
  • Pain-killing medication, such as acetaminophen
  • Syrups or lozenges to soothe painful, sore throat

Preventing Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease

There aren’t any specific drugs or vaccines against the viruses causing HFMD. However, any sort of risk or infection can be minimised by following hygienic practices and providing medical attention, when required.

Follow these measures to prevent HFMD:

  • Wash your hands with soap in the following situations:
    1. After touching an infected blister
    2. Before eating a meal
    3. Before you cook
    4. Before you feed babies
    5. After cleaning and changing baby nappies
    6. Post using the toilet
  • Clean dirty floors and items like clothes and toys using a suitable disinfectant
  • Avoid hugging or kissing infected children as it increases chances of spreading the disease
  • Avoid sending your infected children to schools because it affects other children
  • Cover your mouth while coughing and your nose while sneezing
  • Dispose soiled tissues as well as nappies into dustbins and keep the bins closed
  • Keep your home clean. Also, ensure that child care centers and schools are clean

Complications Due to Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in a Child

When you see symptoms related to HFMD, it is advisable to seek proper medical consultation and treatment, if required. The most common complication associated with HFMD is dehydration as the sores in the mouth make eating and drinking difficult. If left untreated, the disease might create complications such as viral meningitis (inflammation of the membranes of the brain and the spinal cord), and encephalitis (a potentially life-threatening inflammation of the brain). Although these complications are rare, it is advisable to be cautious and consult the doctor.

Home Remedies for Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Children

It is beneficial to use hand foot and mouth disease home remedies to provide relief and comfort from the symptoms. Some of the remedies include:

  • Sucking on ice or popsicles
  • Eating ice creams
  • Drinking cold beverages
  • Avoiding citrus fruits, fruit drinks, spicy food, salty food and soda as they might irritate the blisters in the mouth
  • Gargling with warm salt water to help relieve sore throat

When to Call the Doctor?

It is advisable to consult your doctor when you first find symptoms of the disease. You should also consult your doctor if:

  • The symptoms don’t reduce after 7 to 10 days
  • The infected child has a very high temperature
  • The child is dehydrated and is not urinating as expected
  • The child is less than 3 months old and has high fever


Following are some common FAQs on HFMD for your reference.

1. Can Your Baby Get Hand Foot and Mouth Disease Twice?

Yes, the baby can get HFMD for a second time. While the body will get immune to the virus that caused the first infection, there are several strains of HFMD.

2. Can Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease affect Adults?

HFMD occurs mostly in children. However, it can also occur in adults. It has been observed that adults who are infected might have been attacked by the virus during childhood. The symptoms are same in adults but can be worse.

3. Is Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease Dangerous for Pregnant Women?

Although it’s not dangerous for pregnant women, it is best to avoid contact with infected individuals because:

  • Getting infected and having a high temperature during the first 3 months of pregnancy might lead to miscarriage
  • Getting the hand, foot and mouth disease before childbirth can indicate that the baby will be born with a mild version of it

Mothers and caregivers must maintain appropriate cleanliness and hygiene while looking after children so that HFMD can be prevented. The above-mentioned symptoms, causes and remedies will help you take appropriate measures to prevent it from occurring and spreading.

Also Read: Baby Putting Hands in Mouth

Previous article «
Next article »