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Hand, foot and mouth disease

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The article is for information purposes only and must not be used for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. It is not a substitute for personal medical advice and treatment. Medgate has compiled the information carefully, but cannot guarantee the accuracy and completeness of the information. Medgate accepts no liability for any damage that may result from the use of this information. Are you ill and need help? Our doctors are available for you around the clock via the Medgate app.


Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a widespread and usually harmless viral infection. The disease is transmitted by so-called enteroviruses. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is very contagious - children under the age of ten are particularly affected. Infection occurs via droplet infection (coughing or sneezing) or smear infection (contact with vesicle contents, saliva or faeces). The incubation period - the time that elapses between infection and the appearance of the first symptoms - lasts three to ten days. Infected people develop red spots and fluid-filled blisters in the mouth as well as red spots and nodules on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is often confused with foot-and-mouth disease, which only occurs in animals and is caused by other pathogens.


Hand-foot-and-mouth disease usually begins with a mild fever; those affected have a sore throat and a poor appetite. Aching limbs and headaches as well as conjunctivitis may also occur. After a few days, reddish patches and painful blisters form in the mouth, on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. In rare cases, the blisters also appear on the lips, buttocks, genital area, knees or elbows. In 80% of all cases, however, the disease is asymptomatic - mostly in older children and adults. Typical symptoms usually occur in young children.


Hand-foot-and-mouth disease usually runs its course without complications. Those affected are particularly contagious during the first week of the illness. In addition, the viruses continue to be excreted in the faeces for several weeks after the symptoms have subsided. Sick people can therefore remain contagious for a longer period. Rarely occurring complications tend to affect younger children; complications include inflammation of the heart muscle, lungs or meninges.


Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is caused by viruses. Various pathogens are possible - but they all belong to the so-called enteroviruses. The viruses spread mainly during the summer months and in autumn and are very resistant. The viruses are transmitted via droplet infection (coughing or sneezing) or smear infection (contact with vesicle contents, saliva, faeces).


The typical symptoms of hand-foot-and-mouth disease can be diagnosed relatively easily by a doctor. Only in rare cases is it necessary to take a body sample, for example a stool sample.


The symptoms of hand-foot-and-mouth disease are generally treated and pain-relieving and antipyretic medication is administered. Tinctures that are applied to the blisters or used to rinse the mouth help against inflammation in the mouth. There is no actual treatment available for the virus that causes the disease. As children often absorb too little fluid due to the painful blisters in the mouth, there is a risk of dehydration.


A person can contract hand and foot disease several times, as it is caused by different types of viruses. There is no vaccination. It is advisable to follow the general hygiene measures: frequent hand washing with soap and no close contact with sick people (kissing, hugging, sharing cutlery).

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