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Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Children: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a common illness in children. It is caused by a virus. It often begins with a mild fever, poor appetite, and a sore throat. In a day or two, sores form in the mouth and on the hands and feet. Sometimes sores form on the buttocks. Mouth sores are often painful. This may make it hard for your child to eat. Not all children get a rash, mouth sores, or fever.

The disease often is not serious. It goes away on its own in about 7 to 10 days. It spreads through contact with stool, coughs, sneezes, or runny noses. Home care, such as rest, fluids, and pain relievers, is often the only care needed. Antibiotics do not work for this disease, because it is caused by a virus rather than bacteria.

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is not the same as foot-and-mouth disease (sometimes called hoof-and-mouth disease) or mad cow disease. These other diseases almost always occur in animals.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
  • Make sure your child gets extra rest while your child is not feeling well.
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids. If your child has kidney, heart, or liver disease and has to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids your child drinks.
  • Do not give your child acidic foods and drinks, such as spaghetti sauce or orange juice, which may make mouth sores more painful. Cold drinks, flavoured ice pops, and ice cream may soothe mouth and throat pain.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever, pain, or fussiness. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked with Reye syndrome, a serious illness.

To avoid spreading the virus

  • Keep your child out of group settings, if possible, while your child is sick. If your child goes to daycare or school, talk to staff about when your child can return.
  • Make sure all family members are aware of using good hygiene, such as washing their hands often. It is especially important to wash your hands after you change diapers and before you touch food. Have your child wash their hands after using the toilet and before eating. Teach your child to wash their hands several times a day.
  • Do not let your child share toys or give kisses while your child is infected.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child has a new or worse fever.
  • Your child has a severe headache.
  • Your child cannot swallow or cannot drink enough because of throat pain.
  • Your child has symptoms of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little dark urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than usual.
  • Your child does not get better in 7 to 10 days.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.