A primer about Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)

July 15, 2013
Dr. Maria Nenita L. Salcedo, MD, FPPS

What may seem like simple rashes can be symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease. Photo captured on ANC
Recently, we have encountered a number of students with the Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. We have been following routine procedures in handling these cases.  It is our concern that the numbers may increase, thus we are issuing this primer to increase awareness and prevent the spread of this disease in our community.  Hand, foot, and mouth disease according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old. However, it can sometimes occur in adolescents and adults. It is caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus genus (group). Hand, foot, and mouth disease is often confused with foot-and-mouth disease, a disease of cattle, sheep, and swine. However, the two diseases are caused by different viruses and are not related.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease usually starts with a fever, poor appetite, malaise, sore throat and painful sores that usually develop in the mouth (herpangina). A skin rash develops over 1 to 2 days. The rash appears as flat or raised red spots, sometimes with blisters, usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area. Persons infected with the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease may not get all the symptoms of the disease. They may only get the mouth sore or skin rash.

The disease is spread from person to person by direct contact with the infectious viruses that cause this disease. These viruses are found in the nose and throat secretions (such as saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus), fluid in blisters, and stool of infected persons. The viruses may be spread when infected persons touch objects and surfaces that are then touched by others. Infected persons are most contagious during the first week of the illness. Thus, they should be kept in isolation, at least during the symptomatic phase of the illness. As such if your son has manifestations of the HFMD,  please refrain him from coming to class.  It would be best if medical consult is sought.  Students with the HFMD should be reported to and cleared by the AHS Health Services before going back to class.   

A person can lower their risk of being infected by:

·    Washing hands often with soap and water, especially after using the toilet.
·    Disinfecting dirty surfaces and soiled items. First wash the items with soap and water; then disinfect them with a solution of chlorine bleach (4 cups of water: 1 tablespoon of bleach)
·    Avoiding close contact such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups with people with hand, foot, and mouth disease.
·    One should have a healthy diet, regular exercise or activity and enough sleep and rest to increase one’s resistance to the disease.

There is no vaccine to protect against the viruses that cause hand, foot, and mouth disease.  There is no specific treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease. However, some things can be done to relieve symptoms, such as taking medications to relieve pain and fever and using antiseptic mouthwashes or sprays that numb mouth pain.

Thank you very much.


Maria Nenita L. Salcedo, MD, FPPS    
Head Physician, High School Health Services