Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

What is hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD)?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a contagious disease that is caused by different viruses. It usually affects infants and children under 5 years old. Adults can also get the disease. Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease include fever, painful blister-like sores in the mouth, and a rash that may appear as blisters. HFMD is usually mild, and nearly all infected people recover in 7 to 10 days.

HFMD spreads through close personal contact, such as kissing or hugging, coughing and sneezing, contact with feces, and touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them then putting your fingers in your eyes, nose or mouth.

Who is at risk?

girls washing hands

Viruses that cause HFMD occur worldwide and happen more frequently in summer and fall in temperate climates. Large outbreaks of severe HFMD occur frequently in some countries in Asia. Thousands of people often can get infected during these outbreaks.

What can travelers do to prevent HFMD?

There is no vaccine to prevent HFMD. Travelers are advised to practice good hygiene, including hand washing, to lower the risk of getting sick.

Practice hygiene and cleanliness:

  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, clean your hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Try to avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people who are sick.

Disinfect dirty surfaces and soiled items:

  • If you are able, first wash the items with soap and water, then disinfect them with a solution of chlorine bleach (made by mixing 1 tablespoon of bleach with 4 cups of water) or a cleaning product that contains bleach.


If you develop mouth sores and think you have HFMD:

  • Take over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever. (Caution: Children should not take aspirin.)
  • Use mouthwashes or sprays that numb mouth pain.
  • Drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated.
  • Seek medical care if you are unsure if you have HFMD or you cannot swallow liquids and stay hydrated.
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever.
  • Avoid contact with other people while you are sick.

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