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What is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?

It is named for the red rash that appears on the hands, feet, and mouth due to the hand, foot, and mouth disease virus.

Hand, foot and mouth disease, or vesicular stomatitis, is a common infectious disease in 
children. The disease is named for the red rash that appears on the hands, feet, and mouth due to the hand, 
foot, and mouth disease virus. According to the Centre for Health Protection, Hong Kong enters the peak 
period for hand, foot and mouth disease from May to July. Smaller outbreaks may also occur from 
October to December.

Causes of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is mainly spread by enteroviruses such as Coxsackie virus and Enterovirus 
71. If you come into contact with respiratory secretions (including saliva, nasal mucus, and phlegm), 
faeces, or fluid from the blisters of an infected person, you are at risk of infection. The incubation period for 
hand, foot, and mouth disease is about three to seven days. The risk of transmission is highest in the first 
seven days of infection, and the virus can be excreted in the faeces for several weeks.
Although hand, foot, and mouth disease is common in children, adults can also contract the disease. The 
main adult patients of hand, foot, and mouth disease are parents whose children are infected, because they 
are likely to come into contact with enterovirus-containing secretions when caring for their children or 
cleaning their items (such as utensils, toys, and clothes), thereby increasing the chance of contracting the 

Symptoms of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

People with hand, foot, and mouth disease generally do not have apparent symptoms, but the symptoms in 
children below five years old are more severe. Therefore, hand, foot, and mouth disease symptoms mainly appear in infants and toddlers.

Patients typically have a fever and sore throat when the disease begins. A few days after the early 
symptoms appear, a rash with blisters will appear in the mouth. These rashes are concentrated on the 
tongue, gums, and inner cheeks. After the blisters burst, they form ulcers, which affect the patient's 
swallowing and appetite. In addition to the mouth, rashes may appear on the palms, soles, buttocks, 
or genitals. However, rashes outside the mouth generally do not itch and may not blister.
Complications caused by hand, foot, and mouth disease are not common, but infection with Enterovirus 
71 can still trigger serious heart or brain complications, such as myocarditis, encephalitis, and viral 

In light of this, if a patient with hand, foot, and mouth disease continues to display the following 
symptoms, they should seek medical attention as soon as possible:

  • Persistent high fever
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Look of stupor
  • Limb weakness
  • Muscle twitching

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Information provided by:

Dr Niki Tracy headshot

Dr Niki Tracy

Specialist in Paediatrics, OT&P Healthcare

Please note that all medical articles featured on our website have been reviewed by qualified healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for a personal consultation with a qualified medical professional on the reader's medical condition.