Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is an illness that causes
sores in or on the mouth and on the hands, feet, and sometimes the buttocks and legs.
The sores may be painful. The illness usually doesn't last more than a week or so.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is common in children but can also occur in adults. It can occur at any time of year but is most
common in the summer and fall.
In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics, including some of the oldest -- and most cherished -- medical myths out there. For our November-December 2011 issue, we asked Michael Wahl, MD, medical director of the Illinois Poison Center, in Chicago, about the relative risks of eating poinsettia.
Q: I've always heard that poinsettias are poisonous to kids and pets. My husband says that's hogwash. Who's right?
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not the same as other diseases that have similar names:
foot-and-mouth disease (sometimes called
hoof-and-mouth disease) or
mad cow disease. These diseases almost always occur in
What causes hand-foot-and-mouth disease?
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is caused by a virus called an
The virus spreads easily
through coughing and sneezing. It can also spread through infected stool, such as when you change a diaper or when a young child gets stool on his or her hands and then touches objects that other children put in their mouths. Often the disease breaks out
within a community.
It usually takes 3 to 6 days for a person to get symptoms
of hand-foot-and-mouth disease after being exposed to the virus. This is called
the incubation period.
What are the symptoms?
At first your child may
feel tired, get a sore throat, or have a fever of around
101°F (38°C) to
103°F (39°C). Then in a day or
two, sores or blisters may appear in or on the mouth and on the hands, feet, and
sometimes the buttocks. In some cases a skinrash may appear before the blisters do. The blisters may break open and crust over.
The sores and
blisters usually go away in a week or so.
In some cases there are no symptoms, or they are very mild. Parents may get the disease from their children and not even realize it.
How is hand-foot-and-mouth disease diagnosed?
doctor can tell if your child has hand-foot-and-mouth disease by the symptoms
you describe and by looking at the sores and blisters. Tests usually aren't needed.