Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

What is hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a contagious disease that is caused by different viruses. It usually affects infants and children under 5 years old, occasionally adults will 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. It is usually a mild disease, and nearly all infected people recover in 7 to 10 days.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease spreads through close personal contact, such as kissing or hugging, coughing and sneezing, contact with feces (poop), 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 hand, foot, and mouth disease occur worldwide and are more common in summer and fall in temperate climates. Large, severe outbreaks affecting thousands of people occur frequently in some countries in Asia. 

What can travelers do to prevent hand, foot, and mouth disease?

There is no vaccine to prevent hand, foot, and mouth disease but you can take steps to lower your risk of getting it.

Wash your hands:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom and before eating. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 
  • 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 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 hand, foot, and mouth disease:

  • Take over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever.
    • Children should not take aspirin.
  • Use mouthwashes or sprays that numb mouth pain.
  • Drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated.
  • Seek medical care if
    • Your child is not drinking enough to stay hydrated
    • Symptoms do not improve after 10 days
    • Your child has a weakened immune system
    • Symptoms are severe
    • Your child is very young, especially younger than 6 months

After Travel


If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. 

If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care During Travel.


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