Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in Babies – Causes, Symptoms and Home Remedies

8 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Babies

Hand, foot and mouth disease in babies is a viral infection where the baby will experience painful sores and blisters. While the infection itself is not life-threatening, it can cause discomfort to the baby. Babies will this condition feed poorly and also get dehydrated which can cause secondary complications.

HFMD is a mild viral infection but is highly contagious. In most cases, schools and daycare centers act as points of spread for this infection. Siblings and family members who have come in contact with this virus can also spread this disease to babies.

In This Article

What is Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?

As the name indicates, hand, foot and mouth disease or HFMD is an infection which affects the hand, feet and mouth of the baby. It is very common in babies and toddlers. This disease is caused by Coxsackie viruses (usually types A and B). These viruses are part of the enterovirus family.

Hand, foot and mouth disease in babies is characterized by red painful sores or blisters on the feet, hands, and inside the mouth of the baby. Sometimes the sores may spread to the baby’s legs, bottom and also genital area.

Although this disease rarely affects adults, if their immunity is low, they can end up getting the virus and feel ill. But they won’t get rashes or blisters.

When babies have siblings who are of school-going age, they have higher chances of getting HFMD from their siblings. This virus quickly spreads from one kid to another. Hence, parents must be cautious when this disease is going through an endemic stage and they have babies at home. Schools and day care centers act as sources of quick spread of this disease among babies and children according to the CDC.

Top 4 Main Causes of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Babies

Causes of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Babies

Hand, foot and mouth disease is usually caused by different viruses, the most common among them being the coxsackievirus A16 or CV-A16 virus. This coxsackievirus belongs to the group of viruses known as the enterovirus. The most common HFMD-causing virus is the coxsackievirus. But several other enteroviruses may also cause hand, foot and mouth disease.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is transmitted in several ways

1. Through Contaminated Surfaces and Objects

If the baby touches any contaminated surface directly or indirectly, or he/she touches any object like tabletop, countertop etc. which has been touched by an infected baby or child before them, they can easily get HFMD. Even sharing toys with a baby or toddler who has the infection can cause the disease to pass on to your baby.

2. Direct Contact With Another Infected Person

As the disease is contagious, the baby can get it if he touches or comes in close contact with another baby who is infected. For example, a school-going sibling has a high chance of passing on this virus to the baby.

3. Through Coughing and Sneezing

When an infected baby or child sneezes or coughs near the baby, he/she will definitely end up catching it as the virus will enter the respiratory tract through the expelled droplets in the air around them.

4. By Sharing Utensils

If by chance anyone in the family ends up mixing the baby’s utensils with those of the infected child, then also there are chances of the baby getting HFMD.

Symptoms of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Infants

symptoms of HFMD

If the baby is infected with hand, foot and mouth disease they will show symptoms such as

1. Fever

Initially, the baby may have low-grade fever for one or two days. If the baby is less than 3 months of age, and the fever touches or rises more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit then rush to the doctor. Even in slightly older babies if the fever crosses 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit it’s time to consult the doctor.

[Read : How To Bring Down A Fever In Babies?]

2. Mouth Sores and Blisters

Mouth sores appear a day or two after the fever. They can be seen on the roof of the mouth, tongue, gums and inside of the lips. These sores are small in size and are red or pink in color. The sores are quite painful and cause discomfort to the baby.

After the mouth sores, red-colored blisters appear on the body parts such as the palms of the hand, soles of the feet, fingers, legs, genital area and buttocks. Some of these blisters may be prominent and filled with fluid. These blisters may resemble chicken pox but are not itchy.

3. Loss of Appetite

Since swallowing is painful during HFMD, the baby starts losing his/her appetite.

4. Fussiness

Babies can get extra fussy due to fever, loss of appetite and pain in the sores and blisters.

How is HFMD Diagnosed in Babies?

Swab Test on baby to diagnosis HFMD

If the baby has been infected with HFMD, there are certain ways by which the doctors can diagnose the same. Some steps to diagnose are given as under.

Physical Examination – Your pediatrician will look for sores or rashes on the soles, palms, and mouth. They may also ask you about possible exposure if your baby to the virus through a sibling or a family member, or any case of recent occurrence of the disease in your family or close contacts.

1. Swab Test

The doctor may also order a swab sample of the throat and mouth, and get it tested to confirm the virus.

2. Blood test

In rare cases, the doctor may order a blood test to confirm the presence of the virus. This is not common and depends on the doctor.

How to Prevent Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Babies?

preventing HFMD

In the majority of cases, recovery happens without any complications. Yet the infected person can still pass the virus for seven days or even 14 days. So, it is important to follow prevention. There are no specific vaccines or medicines for HFMD. The infection can easily be prevented by following proper and regular hygiene and consulting a doctor as and when needed.

A few measures that can be used for the prevention of HFMD are

  1. Cover your mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing.
  2. Always disinfect the baby’s toys, personal objects, and household items like doorknobs etc.
  3. Wash hands before touching a baby, having food, before cooking, after touching the sores or blisters, before and after cooking, after changing diapers, using the toilet etc.
  4. Never share the baby’s utensils with anyone else.
  5. Keep the floor and clothes clean with a disinfectant.
  6. Do not kiss or hug the child when the child has an infection as it can spread.
  7. Do not send the child to school as it can transmit to other kids as well.
  8. Throw the waste in bins and keep them closed.
  9. Dispose of soiled tissues into closed dustbins as well.

Complications Due to Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Babies

It is better to seek medical consultation when any symptoms related to HFMD or hand foot and mouth disease are seen. Even though it is not a serious disease, sometimes a few complications may arise as well.

Some complications that can arise due to HFMD not being treated on time are

1. Viral Meningitis

This is a very rare type of complication where the virus can reach the brain, especially the outer layer of the tissues that cover the brain resulting in viral meningitis.

[Read : Meningitis In Children]

2. Dehydration

Babies get dehydrated frequently during HFMD as the sores in the mouth or back of the throat area make it difficult to eat or drink. Also, since the baby does not take enough fluids, urination is not that frequent. In case the baby is using less than six wet diapers, or not passing urine for more than six hours, it indicates dehydration. You should immediately take your baby to the doctor.

3. Encephalitis

Encephalitis is an extremely rare complication where the virus affects the brain and results in inflammation.

4. Temporarily Losing Toenail or Fingernail

In case a blister happens under the toenail or fingernail, the baby can end up losing the nail. Though this is temporary as the nail regrows later.

Treatment Options For HFMD in Babies

Hand Foot Mouth disease also known as HFMD needs no treatment like antibiotics as it is a viral and not a bacterial infection. The infection starts disappearing on its own.

Doctors treat to provide relief from the discomfort that the baby is feeling. Some of these medications include

  • Painkillers
  • Ointment or gel to soothe the irritation from blisters
  • Syrups for mouth and throat sores

Four Easy Home Remedies For Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease in Babies

mom breastfeeding a sick baby

Whenever a baby gets sick, the first thing the parents swear by is home remedies. After which they rush to a doctor. But in certain cases, medication is more effective when home remedies are applied as well.

A few home remedies that you can take up when your baby has HFMD are

1. Feeding in Small Quantities

It is recommended to give small portions of breast milk, formula, and other fluids (to children older than 6 months). This will be helpful since babies cannot drink much due to the sores.

2. Increasing Fluid Intake

If the baby has a fever along with sores, they cannot swallow much. Increasing the fluid intake helps in preventing dehydration. Ensure that your breastfeeding baby is having breast milk regularly in small quantities. In the case of babies older than six months, you can give milk, water, and soups to offer comfort that is due to irritation. Pediatricians however do not recommend juices as they have added sugar.

3. Feeding Purees

If your baby is older than six months, you can give all foods in a puree form as it is easy to feed the baby at this time. Loads of vegetables, fruits, meat, chicken broth, and vegetable stock can be given as well. Apart from that breastfeeding always helps.

4. Feeding Post Medicine

Feeding should always be done after half an hour of giving the painkillers.

5. Letting Your Baby Have Plenty of Rest

Rest allows your baby to recover quickly. It even builds immunity and offers them more energy. Babies at this time should play less and rest more to recover soon.

This disease gets cured in a span of three days to a week and in some cases close to two weeks. The blisters on the feet and hands become dry and fall off and the mouth sores disappear as well.

When Should You Consider Seeing a Doctor?

You must consult a doctor when you find the symptoms of HFMD in your baby. Apart from that, in case you observe any of the following symptoms in your baby, you must reach out to the doctor at the earlies.

  • The baby is experiencing a high body temperature.
  • The symptoms do not decrease after a week or 10 days.
  • The baby is younger than three months but has a high fever.
  • The baby shows signs of dehydration and is not passing the urine they should be.

Hand, Foot And Mouth Disease is babies should be treated with the utmost care. It is also important to follow the home remedies after talking to the doctor. Always keep washing your hands after applying ointment to the baby and even after feeding them. This is not a dangerous disease but needs handling with caution.


1. Is HFMD in Babies Contagious?

The hand, foot, and mouth disease also known as (HFMD) is an extremely contagious disease and is due to virus called coxsackievirus which can transmit by unclean surfaces, a person’s stool, saliva, or even respiratory secretions.

2. How Long Does HFMD Last?

HFMD is not a very serious disease, and the recovery is usually done in a week to ten days. Unless some other symptoms are there it does not even need medical treatment. Only under severe circumstances, hospitalization may be needed for a few days.

Read Also: Viral Infections in Babies – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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