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Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease: Care Instructions


Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a common illness caused by a virus. The virus is very contagious. It spreads easily through contact with stool, coughs, sneezes, and runny noses. Anyone can get hand-foot-and-mouth disease, but it's most common in children.

Symptoms are usually mild. They often start with a mild fever, a poor appetite, and a sore throat. In a day or two, blisters or sores may form in the mouth, on the hands and feet, and sometimes on the buttocks. Mouth sores or blisters are often painful and may make it hard to eat. Not everyone who gets infected has symptoms.

Home care can help relieve the symptoms. They usually go away in about 7 to 10 days. This illness is caused by a virus, not bacteria, so antibiotics won't help.

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is not the same as foot-and-mouth disease (or hoof-and-mouth disease), which occurs in animals.

Follow-up care is a key part of your 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 you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Get extra rest until you feel better.
  • To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids. Choose water and other clear liquids until you feel better. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. No one younger than 18 should take aspirin. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • If you have a sore throat or mouth sores, avoid acidic foods and drinks, such as spaghetti sauce or orange juice. These things may make mouth sores more painful. Cold drinks, flavoured ice pops, and ice cream may soothe mouth and throat pain.
  • Take steps to avoid spreading the virus.
    • Wash your hands after you use the toilet or change a diaper and before you touch food. Use soap and water, and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
    • Stay home when you're sick. Ask your doctor when it's okay to return to work or school.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a new or worse fever.
  • You have a severe headache.
  • You can't swallow or can't drink enough because of throat pain.
  • You have symptoms of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than usual.

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

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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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.