Hand, Foot and  Mouth Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and More

hand foot mouth disease - livayur

What Is Hand Foot & Mouth Disease?

Hand Foot & Mouth Disease may sound like a made-up name, but it’s not. It’s also not to be confused with Foot and Mouth disease, only familiar to many of us from James Herriot books as a disease that afflicts livestock. Hand Foot & Mouth Disease, on the other hand, is a common infection that is caused by a group of viruses termed as enteroviruses. The disease can affect people of any age group, but is most common in young children under the ages of 5 to 7 years. 

As Hand Foot & Mouth Disease is a relatively new disease that first appeared in India in 2003, Ayurvedic treatments for the disease are still evolving, but they are regarded as an urgent requirement because of the need for safe and natural treatments 1.

Hand Foot & Mouth Disease Symptoms

Hand foot mouth disease symptoms in children and adults are usually mild and tend to occur in two primary stages – early and late, although some symptoms may overlap or vary depending on the individual 2.

Early Stage Hand Foot & Mouth Disease Symptoms

This stage usually lasts for 1 to 3 days after exposure to the virus. The symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Feeling sick
  • Loss of appetite
  • Small red spots on the mouth, hands, feet, or other areas of the skin

Late stage Hand Foot & Mouth Disease Symptoms

This stage usually lasts for 4 to 6 days after the onset of symptoms. The symptoms can include:

  • Painful blisters on the tongue, gums, and inside of the cheeks
  • A rash on the palms, soles, and sometimes the buttocks. The rash may have blisters or scabs.
  • Difficulty eating or drinking due to mouth pain
  • Dehydration
  • Irritability or fussiness in infants and toddlers

In most cases, symptoms develop three to six days after infection. Hand foot mouth disease in adults is usually extremely mild and can even be asymptomatic, but infected adults can still spread the infection. 

When dealing with Hand Foot & Mouth Disease, there are some clear warning signs of severe disease progression. These include 3:

  • High fever 
  • Nervous system involvement
  • Abnormal respiratory rate and rhythm
  • Circulatory dysfunction
  • Increased white blood cell count
  • Increased blood glucose
  • Increased blood lactate

If observation and tests reveal any of these, medical attention should be sought promptly.

hand foot and mouth disease symptoms

Hand Foot & Mouth Disease Causes

Hand foot mouth disease is caused by different members of the enterovirus family of viruses, most commonly coxsackievirus A16 and enterovirus 4. The virus can spread from person to person through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person such as:

  • Saliva, nasal secretions, or throat discharge
  • Fluid from blisters or scabs
  • Feces or stool
  • Respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing
  • Unwashed hands or contaminated surfaces

The virus can also spread through contact with contaminated water or food, such as drinking water or raw shellfish. The virus can remain in the body for weeks after the symptoms are gone and still be contagious.

Hand Foot & Mouth Disease Treatment

As a viral infection, hand foot mouth disease treatment is only aimed at relieving symptoms as antibiotics can only be used for bacterial infections. In most cases, the infection resolves naturally, but you can use OTC treatments and home remedies for hand foot and mouth disease itching relief. Here are some treatment options 5:

  • OTC pain medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce pain and fever but prolonged use can lead to other side effects. It should also be noted that most of these medications, including aspirin, are not meant for children under 16 years old.
  • Prevention of dehydration is important so ensure adequate fluid intake.
  • Use a numbing mouthwash or spray to ease the pain of mouth sores.
  • Avoid hot, spicy, or acidic foods and drinks that may irritate the mouth sores.

Emergency care should be sought if the patient meets any of the following criteria:

  • Is under six months of age
  • Has a weakened immune system
  • Has mouth sores or a sore throat that makes it difficult to drink fluids
  • Has symptoms that do not improve after 10 days
  • Has signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, sunken eyes, or reduced urine output

Ayurvedic Treatment For Hand Foot & Mouth Disease

Ayurvedic experts and researchers today explain hand foot and mouth disease as resulting from vitiation of Rasa and Raktadhatus with Vata and Pitta dominance. Many of the symptoms affecting the skin are linked to their involvement, while excessive pain is linked to Vata and redness and fever can be associated with Pitta. Accordingly, some Ayurvedic treatments have been formulated 6.

Ayurvedic medication for hand foot and mouth disease should include ingredients such as Madhur, Yastimadhu, Anantmoo, Shatavari, Nagarmotha, Guduchi and Shirish. These herbs are recommended because of properties such as Deepan, Pachan, Jawaghna and Raktaprasadan, which can help relieve symptoms.

Gairikchurna may be used in combination with cow ghee for quick relief for soreness in the mouth, while Prawalpisti, Suvarnamakshikbhasma and Raupyabhasma can help reduce skin eruptions. Additionally, coconut oil and aloe gel may be used as topical applications to reduce skin irritation and inflammation. In fact, one study reported Shatdhauta  Ghrita’s efficacy for wound healing, while aloe was noted to enhance  collagen turnover rate in wound tissue 7


When dealing with Hand Foot & Mouth Disease, keep in mind that the age old saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is very true. As this is a relatively modern disease, medical treatments are still limited and Ayurvedic research is still ongoing. However, preventive measures such as maintaining strict hygiene, avoiding contact with infected individuals, disinfecting surfaces that may be contaminated and avoiding socializing when sick can help greatly.


How long does hand foot mouth last?

Although a mild infection, the symptoms can cause considerable discomfort. Fortunately, it resolves without treatment in a week to ten days. Treatments may be used to relieve symptoms and in case of severe symptoms, medical care would be necessary.

Can Hand Foot & Mouth Disease cause complications?

Hand foot & mouth disease is usually non-threatening, but in rare cases it can cause complications that include dehydration, encephalitis, viral meningitis and fingernail or toenail loss.

Is hand foot and mouth worse at night?

While the disease doesn’t directly affect sleep, pain from mouth sores is known to cause difficulty falling asleep and disturbed sleep in many children.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for general information and not meant to substitute any medical advice. Please consult your doctor for appropriate medical consultation.


  1. https://www.indianpediatrics.net/feb2014/feb-155.htm
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth/about/signs-symptoms.html
  3. https://jbiomedsci.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12929-023-00908-4
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK431082/
  5. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000965.htm
  6. http://www.iamj.in/posts/images/upload/1162_1166_1.pdf
  7. https://www.ayurlog.com/index.php/ayurlog/article/view/780

Dr. Shankar Rao

Dr. Rao has achieved great success in his career, with 5 research projects and 4 books to his credit, as well as a Monograph. In addition to receiving the Bharat Scout & Guide Award from the President of India, Dr Rao has also won the Young Scientist Award from S.V. University, Tirupati.