Hand, foot and mouth disease in adults

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a virus that mainly affects children. But this disease also sometimes occurs in adults. This article provides information about this disease in adults. What are the complaints? What is the course of the disease? How does it look? This page including photos may answer many of your questions. Hand, foot and mouth disease is a disease often caused by the coxsackie virus. The disease is highly contagious and is considered a childhood disease. However, just like other childhood diseases, it can also occur in adults. In the Netherlands you don’t often hear about this disease, but here we are more familiar with childhood diseases such as chickenpox. In other countries such as France, this disease is more common, mainly in children (maladie mains-pieds-bouche). It is also rare in adults, so the disease is not quickly recognized.

Complaints and symptoms

Flu symptoms such as fever, sore throat (strep throat) and coughing.

After 1 or 2 days, small red spots appear on the hands, feet and in the mouth. The hands and feet give a feeling of being on fire. This is very painful! Furthermore, people experience severe sore throat, blisters appear on the tongue and there is a fever/fever.

Day 2 to 6: The red spots become (subcutaneous) blisters and ulcers. The fingertips/toes are red and swollen. (see own photo article). There is also still a sore throat (inflammation). The burning sensation on hands and feet slowly decreases.

After the 6th day , hands and feet start to peel. Fingertips and toes shed first, followed by the entire (bottom of the) foot and hand (palm). All calluses will come off and you will see new (red and vulnerable) skin. The skin feels numb, as if it has been burned. The peeling can last for 3 to 4 weeks and is not painful.

How does it look?

First a few small red spots appear. Within 24 hours, these become more and more and the feeling of burning arises, especially in the fingertips and toes. The red spots become larger and subcutaneous blisters and ulcers develop. It resembles chickenpox, but is limited to the hands (especially palms), feet (especially bottom/soles) and mouth. In the mouth like; The inside of the lip, on the tongue, inside of the cheek, but also around the nose, a spot may appear here and there. After almost a week, hands and feet start to peel a lot. Patches of calluses can come off. Again, this is not painful. Only the new skin is vulnerable.

Is there a treatment for Hand, Foot, Mouth Disease?

There is no special treatment for Hand, Foot, Mouth disease. However, pain relief such as (paracetamol/aspirin) can be taken for the fever and burning sensation. The GP could prescribe a course of antibiotics for the throat infection. In general it’s just relaxing. A cooling compress can provide temporary relief from the burning sensation. Finally, the doctor can prescribe ointments to relieve the symptoms.

Can it be prevented?

No, it cannot be prevented. Although most adults do not develop the disease, like other childhood illnesses, there are always exceptions.

How long is it contagious?

The incubation period (time between becoming infected and becoming ill) is usually between 3 to 6 days. Contamination mainly occurs through the air (including coughing). The fluid from the blisters is also contagious and the disease can even be transmitted through the feces.
The disease is highly contagious especially just before symptoms appear and during the illness itself.

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