Hand, foot and mouth disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease: fever, sore throat and a rash on the hands

When a child has a fever and a sore throat, it's reasonable to assume that it has one of the many cold-like illnesses. However, parents are often unaware that these symptoms may also indicate hand, foot and mouth disease. This Health Tip explains what that is and how it differs from other colds or flues.
Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFM) gets its name from the blisters in the mouth and the reddish spots on the hands and feet. It has nothing to do with foot and mouth disease found in cattle, sheep and pigs, which is triggered by a different virus family.

Symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease

Initially, HFM disease resembles a cold or flu with fever, loss of appetite, and sore throat. In most cases, painful blisters soon form in the mouth, mainly on the tongue, palate, cheeks and gums. Somewhat later, red spots or blisters appear on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, and sometimes on the buttocks, causing mild pain and/or itching. The genital area, elbows and knees can also be affected.

How is HFM disease transmitted?

HFM disease is highly contagious and passed on through aerosols during close contact with an infected person, through excretions by an infected person, or from touching a contaminated surface. While the symptoms usually take between three and seven days to appear, they can take up to 14 days in some cases. People are most contagious at the onset of the disease, but the viruses can still be in faeces for weeks afterwards and cause an infection. It's interesting that most people have no symptoms at all but are contagious nonetheless. Different members of the same virus family can cause HFM disease, and you can therefore catch it more than once during your lifetime. It generally affects children, but adults can also catch it in rare cases. There are no special precautions for pregnant women, but the risk of severe symptoms is highest during the first two weeks of a newborn's life.

Treatment options

There is no cure for HFM disease, but it is possible to alleviate the symptoms. This means using medicines to lower the fever and reduce the pain and itching – and applying pain-relieving gels or mouthwashes against the discomfort in the mouth. The choice of food and drink is also important.

  • Liquids as well as soft, cool and mild-tasting foods (e.g. ice cream or cold tea) are best.
  • No citrus fruits
  • Nothing spicy, strongly flavoured or hard to chew

The younger the child, the more important it is to make sure that, despite difficulties with eating and drinking, it gets enough fluids, sugar and salt.

Video on the topic

(in German)


Your child has spots on the palms and refuses food because the mouth is sore. Are you wondering if you need to go to the doctor or if a visit to the pharmacy is sufficient? SWICA's BENECURA app is designed to help you understand your symptoms or illness. SWICA customers can use the SymptomCheck feature of the BENECURA app, which was developed by doctors, to obtain information easily, quickly and reliably and immediately receive a personal recommendation about what to do next.

In the event of further health-related questions, SWICA customers can contact the santé24 telemedicine service free of charge on +41 44 404 86 86. A telemedicine practice licence allows santé24 physicians to provide additional medical services in cases that are suited to a telemedicine approach. SWICA customers can also use the BENECURA medical app to carry out a digital SymptomCheck and receive recommendations about what to do next. During a subsequent phone call with santé24, customers can decide for themselves whether to release their information from SymptomCheck to santé24.