Hand, foot and mouth disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common infection that mostly affects children under 10. It usually clears up by itself, within about a week.

The first sign of hand, foot and mouth disease can be:

  • a sore throat
  • a fever, typically 38 to 39°C
  • not wanting to eat

After a few days mouth ulcers and a rash will appear.

Mouth ulcer on a tongue

Ulcers appear in the mouth and on the tongue. These can be painful and it may be difficult to eat and drink.

Rash on a hand

A rash usually also appears on the hands and feet. The spots are often red and may develop into a blister.

Blister on small toe

The blisters are grey and they can be painful.

If you’re unsure it’s hand, foot and mouth disease, look at other childhood rashes.

How to treat hand, foot and mouth disease at home

  • drink fluids to avoid dehydration (avoid acidic drinks, like fruit juice)
  • eat soft foods like soup
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help ease a sore throat and bring down a temperature

You can buy mouth ulcer gels, sprays, and mouthwashes to ease the blisters. Always check they are suitable for children and give the correct dose.

See a GP if

  • your child isn’t better after a week
  • your child is dehydrated — they’re not weeing as often as usual
  • you’re concerned about your child’s symptoms
  • you’re pregnant and get hand, foot and mouth disease

How to stop hand, foot and mouth disease spreading

Hand, foot and mouth disease spreads easily.

Keep your child away from school or nursery while they’re feeling unwell. Generally, there’s no need to keep them off until the blisters scab. However, check with your school or nursery as they may have their own guidance.

Hand, foot and mouth disease in pregnancy

It’s best to avoid close contact with anyone who has hand, foot and mouth disease.

There’s normally no risk to the pregnancy or baby. However, there’s limited evidence that in very rare cases catching it during the first 3 months of pregnancy could lead to miscarriage. This risk is very low.

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.