Treatment of hand, foot and mouth disease

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

Hand foot and mouth disease is a viral infection commonly affecting children below 10 years. It rarely affects teenagers and adults who usually show milder symptoms.

Causes and symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease

The infection is commonly caused by Coxsackie A16 strain of virus from the enterovirus family.

The infection leads to symptoms of fever, sore throat, skin rashes over hands, feet, buttocks, genitalia and also leads to ulcers in the mouth, throat, tonsils and tongue. (1-8)

Relief of symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease

Treatment for the condition is usually aimed at relief of symptoms. Patients and parents of the child are reassured that HFMD is different from foot and mouth disease seen in cattle, sheep and pigs.

The symptoms of HFMD usually take around 3 to 7 days to appear. Once the patient manifests the symptoms the disease runs its course for 7 to 10 days and resolves by itself.

Antibiotics are ineffective for hand, foot and mouth disease

As antibiotics are ineffective, their use is not recommended. Antibiotics mainly act upon bacterial infections. Since HFMD is a viral illness they are not effective.

Antibiotics are only required if secondary infection of skin lesions occurs.

Treatment of children with hand, foot and mouth disease

Children with the infection are given fever mediation for pain and fever. This includes Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen. These are available over-the-counter.

Aspirin should not be given to children under 12 years. Aspirin given to any viral infection if children under 12 may lead to life threatening complications affecting the liver and the brain called Reye’s syndrome.

Salt water rinses for hand, foot and mouth disease

Symptomatic relief includes salt water rinses and gargles. The gargles are prepared with 1/2 teaspoon of salt to 1 glass of warm water. This soothes the ulcers within the mouth.

It is helpful in children who are able to rinse without swallowing.

Fluids for patients with hand, foot and mouth disease

Plenty of fluids are recommended. Fever usually may lead to dehydration and fluids are recommended particularly if there are high peaks of fever.

The most soothing fluids are cool, milk products. Soft cool foods also help.

Most children complain of pain on taking juice or soda due to their acidic content leading to burning sensation over the mouth ulcers.

For mouth ulcers a pain reliever ointment or gel may be given. This contains benzydamine or lidocaine oral gel that numbs the pain over the ulcers.

How long does recovery take?

Complete recovery is seen in 5 to 7 days. Treatment may be continued at home unless there are complications.

When to seek medical attention

Children with dehydration, high fever and those with fever induced convulsions or seizures may need medical attention in the hospital.

Dehydration is characterized by:

  • dry skin and dry mouth
  • loss of weight and listlessness
  • irritability
  • decreased and dark colored urine output

If a pregnant woman is infected with the virus there is a risk of abortion (in cases of infection during early pregnancy) or infection of the fetus (in cases of late pregnancy infections). These patients may need hospital care.

Prevention of hand, foot and mouth disease

Prevention of HFMD revolves around avoidance of infected individuals. Children with the infection are isolated and prevented from attending school or day care centers especially the first week to prevent spread.

Those handling children with infection especially at child care centers need to practice frequent hand washing and through cleaning of surfaces after disposal or change of nappies and diapers, before and after eating and after sneezing or coughing and handling tissues etc. with throat or nasal discharges.

Toys and surfaces should first be washed with soap and water, and then cleaned with a dilute solution of bleach.

Last Updated: Jun 5, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2023, June 05). Treatment of hand, foot and mouth disease. News-Medical. Retrieved on April 15, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "Treatment of hand, foot and mouth disease". News-Medical. 15 April 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "Treatment of hand, foot and mouth disease". News-Medical. (accessed April 15, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2023. Treatment of hand, foot and mouth disease. News-Medical, viewed 15 April 2024,


  1. Kledis leka Kledis leka United States says:

    I'm 11 and my young is soar and really hurts people say that I should use baking soda should I?

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.