Hand, foot and mouth disease: a nasty warm weather virus.

Contrary to popular belief, not all viruses are winter illnesses. Hand, foot and mouth disease is more common in warmer weather and particularly affects young children. This virus spreads easily, so keep a watchful eye for worrying symptoms this summer.

On the plus side, good hygiene habits can help your child avoid catching it. Here’s what else you need to know:

What is it?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral infection that’s common in children under 10 years of age. Although mostly mild, in rare cases it can become serious. It’s not related to the ‘foot and mouth’ disease that affects farm animals.


The symptoms are easy to spot as children will often get painful sores in their mouth and a rash with blisters on their hands and feet. They may also appear on their bottoms, particularly in children still wearing nappies. The spots or blisters may be painful, especially in the mouth, but shouldn’t be itchy.

Initial symptoms often appear suddenly and include a mild fever, sore throat and possibly a headache. One to two days later, painful blisters may appear. These may be ulcer-like blisters in the mouth, lining the cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and the gums and tongue. A rash may also appear with small fluid-filled blisters on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. This can be distinguished from chicken pox, which usually has a more widespread rash.

Your child may become tired, grouchy and irritable. Not surprisingly, they may refuse food and drinks because of the painful blisters in their mouth.


Hand, foot and mouth disease is caused by a virus. It is highly contagious and is spread by coughing, sneezing and direct physical contact with someone who is infected. What’s more, the virus can remain in bowel movements for several weeks after the initial infection. Once your child is infected, the symptoms may take about three to six days to appear.


The disease is most infectious during the first week that symptoms occur. Children may be contagious for around seven to ten days. Any children with symptoms should stay home from daycare or school until their blisters have dried.

The best precaution of all is to teach your child to wash their hands regularly and well, and keep them away from children with cold or flu-like symptoms, just in case.


Unfortunately, there’s no specific treatment for the disease and children will usually recover on their own, with the spots in the mouth and the rash clearing within seven to ten days. Nor is there a vaccine or other preventative measure, other than good hygiene, regular hand washing and avoid the sharing of utensils and cups.

Paracetamol, such as Pamol®, is the only medicine recommended for hand, foot and mouth disease. Giving Pamol® may help to provide relief from the painful symptoms and the fever. A saltwater mouth rinse or mild antiseptic mouthwash may help to soothe discomfort in the mouth. 

Encourage your child to drink lots of fluids, and ice blocks can be soothing too. Rest is important to assist your child’s overall recovery. 


The disease is usually mild with most children making a full recovery within ten days. However in rare cases complications may develop, so seek medical help immediately if your child shows any of these additional symptoms :

  • Vomiting
  • Light sensitivity
  • Stiff neck
  • Difficulty waking
  • Problems walking
  • Trouble breathing
  • High fever

What else?

Although hand, foot and mouth disease is rare in healthy adults, if you catch the virus during pregnancy see your doctor or lead maternity carer as it can affect your unborn baby. It’s quite common with this type of virus for outbreaks to occur, so teach your child to stay vigilant about hygiene even over the summer months. Talk to your healthcare professional if you would like any further information or have any questions on hand, foot and mouth disease.

Pamol® is for the treatment of children’s pain and fever. Pamol® suspensions contain paracetamol 250mg/5mL. Always read the label and use as directed. If symptoms persist see your healthcare professional. Incorrect use can be harmful. ® Registered Trademark. Aspen Pharmacare C/- Healthcare Logistics, Auckland. TAPS PP8833-NV16.