About Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is caused by viruses, most commonly Coxsackievirus. It may cause fever, sore throat, painful sores in the mouth, and blisters on the palms of hands and soles of feet. For most people, HFMD resolves on its own and requires only self-care.

How is it transmitted?

HFMD is spread through close personal contact, coughing or sneezing, fecal-oral route, or contact with contaminated objects. Transmission can occur by coming into contact with the virus, and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs of HFMD may include fever, sore throat, oral ulcers, oral blisters, or blisters on the palms of the hand, soles of feet, knees, elbows, or buttocks. Not everyone will get all of these symptoms. Some people, especially adults, may show no symptoms at all, but they can still pass the virus to others.


Most cases of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) are mild and get better on their own, even without treatment. Self-care treatment options include:

  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Use mouthwashes or sprays that numb mouth pain
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Practice good hygiene

You should see a healthcare provider if your symptoms include:

  • fever
  • moderate to severe pain
  • sensitivity to light
  • intense redness
  • symptoms that worsen or do not improve after 3 days

If you suspect you have HFMD or have been in close contact with someone who has HFMD, call Student Health Service 215-746-3535 and select the option to talk with a nurse about your symptoms.


There are no vaccines to protect against hand, foot, and mouth disease specifically. A person can lower their risk of being infected by cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and practicing good hand hygiene.

Clean and disinfect surfaces:

  • Regular Lysol and non-commercial grade Chlorox cleaning wipes are NOT effective against Coxsackies.
  • Use Lysol disinfectant spray or Commercial-use Chlorox, which is far more effective on hard non-porous surfaces.

Practice good hygiene:

  • Wash hands well and often with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing drinks or eating utensils.
  • Regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched (such as toys, doorknobs, tables, counters) with soap and water or with cleaning wipes.
  • Quarantine is not needed, but it is a good idea to stay away from other people as much as you can so that you don’t spread the disease.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and putting your used tissue in the trash can. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.



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(updated 10/16/2018)