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Hand-foot-and-mouth disease: Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms in children

A child with hand-foot-and-mouth disease can often develop reddish spots on the soles of feet and palms of hands, which quickly turn into bumps or blisters.

Hand-foot-mouth disease on soles and palms of a child

When a child gets hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD), most signs and symptoms clear within 7 to 10 days. Here’s what you may see during that time:

Days 1–2

For one or two days, you may notice that your child feels unwell and has one or more of the following:

  • A mild fever

  • A sore throat

  • Stomach pain

  • Less of an appetite

Days 3–7 (or longer)

After one or two days, the above symptoms tend to clear and you may see:

  • Mouth sores

  • An itchy rash, usually on the feet, hands, or both

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

Mouth sores: Most children have a few painful mouth sores, which usually develop on the tongue. Sores can also appear elsewhere in the mouth, including the roof of the mouth. Mouth sores tend to begin as bright pink spots or tiny bumps, which turn into blisters. The blisters can be painful.

Itchy rash: While an itchy rash tends to develop on the hands or feet, it can appear elsewhere on the body, such as the knees or elbows.

While a child can develop all of these signs and symptoms of HFMD, most children only have a few.

Painful mouth sores may cause your child to stop drinking, which can lead to dehydration. If you notice that your child won’t drink, contact your child’s doctor.

Hand of mother giving orange juice to a child, who is tired of food

Signs and symptoms in adults

Most adults who gets HFMD never develop signs or symptoms. When they do, the signs and symptoms are the same as those that children get.

Signs and symptoms clear quickly

While most signs and symptoms of HFMD clear within 7 to 10 days, children younger than 2 years of age may be sick longer. It can take more time for their bodies to get rid of the virus.

You can find out how HFMD spreads from person to person and how you’re most likely to get the virus at: Hand-foot-and-mouth disease: Who gets & causes

Image 1: J Am Acad Dermatol. 2013;69:736-41
Image 2: Getty images

Belazarian L, Lorenzo ME, et al. “Exanthematous viral diseases.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 1867-9.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Hand-foot-and-mouth disease.” Last updated December 22, 2017. Last accessed May 25, 2018.

Lott JP, Liu K, et al. “Atypical hand-foot-and-mouth disease associated with coxsackievirus A6 infection.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2013;69:736-41.