Can Adults Get Hand Foot Mouth Disease From Children?

Reviewed on 6/22/2021

Hand, foot, and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a contagious viral infection that can affect children and adults alike

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a contagious viral infection common in young children. In most cases, the infection is mild and lasts for about 7-10 days and causes sores or blisters in the mouth and throat, as well as a painful rash (red spots) on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet

While the disease most commonly occurs in children under 10, it can sometimes affect older children and adults. It spreads quickly in childcare centers, preschools, and other places where children and adults are in close contact. Here’s what you should know if your child catches this disease.

How does hand, foot, and mouth disease spread?

The virus remains in the infected person’s body for several days and weeks after the infection and can shed in the following:

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is most contagious in the first week of infection, and transmission occurs through:

  • Direct person-to-person contact when touching, kissing, hugging, or sharing objects
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces and objects
  • Contact with the infected person’s feces or when changing a diaper
  • Exposure to respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes

What are signs and symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Symptoms usually appear in stages, 3-7 days after coming in contact with the virus. Early symptoms are flu-like and include:

The following symptoms typically occur 1-2 days after fever begins:

  • Painful red blister-like sores or ulcers usually develop on the tongue, back of the mouth, gums, and inside of cheeks. The sores usually start as small red spots, which blister and become sore, making swallowing painful and difficult.
  • Skin rashes that have flat, painful, red blisters appear on the palms of the hands, fingers, and soles of the feet. Flat spots or sores may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks, or genital area.

What are complications of hand, foot, and mouth disease?

The most common complication of hand, foot, and mouth disease is dehydration, which occurs because swallowing becomes difficult.

A serious form of the Coxsackievirus and Enterovirus 71 can sometimes cause rare complications including:

How is hand, foot, and mouth disease treated?

There is no specific treatment for hand, foot, and mouth disease. Signs and symptoms usually resolve on their own in 7-10 days, and treatment usually focuses on symptom relief. 

Doctors often recommend the following to help ease discomfort:

Doing the following at home may help reduce blister soreness in the mouth and throat and help make eating and drinking more comfortable:

  • Eating cold treats, such as popsicles, ice cream, yogurt, or smoothies
  • Drinking milk-based fluids or cold water
  • Avoiding acidic foods and beverages, such as citrus fruits, fruit juice, and soda
  • Avoiding salty or spicy foods
  • Eating soft foods that don’t require chewing
  • Rinsing the mouth after meals
  • Swishing with warm salt water, which helps reduce inflammation 

SLIDESHOW

ADHD Symptoms in Children See Slideshow

How to prevent the spread of hand, foot, and mouth disease

The following precautions can prevent the spread of hand, foot and mouth disease and reduce the risk of infection:

  • Washing hands with soap and water, especially after:
    • Changing diapers
    • Using the toilet
    • Wiping a child’s nose
    • Blowing nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • Caring for someone who is sick
  • Avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, shared items, toys, and doorknobs in childcare settings
  • Avoiding touching, hugging, or kissing someone who is infected and not sharing any objects with them
  • Teaching children to:
    • Cover their nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing
    • Keep their hands clean
    • Not put any objects, fingers, or hands in their mouth
  • Isolating sick individuals. People with the infection should stay at home to limit exposure. Children should not be sent to childcare or school until they are completely recovered.

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References
Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease (HFMD). https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/218402-overview

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