The most common symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease are:
- tiny blisters in and around the mouth and on the hands and feet, and sometimes in the nappy area in infants, OR a red skin rash with a brown scale on the outer arms, hands, legs, feet, around the mouth and upper buttocks
- sore throat and mouth, which may make eating or drinking difficult
- runny nose
- loss of appetite
The symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease usually start to appear 3 to 7 days after a person is infected, and typically last for 7 to 10 days.
Symptoms are usually mild
Blisters inside the mouth are often the most troublesome symptom, because they can make eating and drinking quite painful. However, in some cases, especially in adults, symptoms are so mild that they are not noticeable.
In very rare cases, coxsackievirus (which causes hand, foot and mouth disease) can cause serious illnesses that affect the heart, brain, lungs or eyes.
What are the signs of a serious infection?
Young children are at higher risk of serious infection than older children, teenagers and adults. Signs that a person might have a more serious form of hand, foot and mouth disease include any of the following:
- persistent fever (38°C or above for 72 hours or more)
- abnormal movements / jerking movements
- rapid breathing
- excessive tiredness, drowsiness
- excessive irritability
- difficulty walking
- showing signs of being dehydrated (such as not passing urine as often as usual)
- symptoms that are getting worse after a few days
- moving jerkily or can't walk properly
If any of these signs are present, see your doctor urgently.
Differences between hand, foot and mouth and foot-and-mouth disease
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a completely different disease to foot-and-mouth disease, which only affects animals. The name is the only similarity.
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Last reviewed: November 2020