What causes it?
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) is a common childhood illness caused by a coxsackie virus, a virus in the enterovirus family named after the town of Coxsackie, New York, in which it was first described in 1948. Enteroviruses gain entry into the body through the fecal-oral route, meaning hands or objects contaminated with stool containing live virus are put into the mouth of another child.
Despite the similar name, there is no connection between this illness and hoof-and-mouth disease that affects cattle.
Who gets it?
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is an infection of young children: most are between six months and four years of age. The peak times of infection in temperate climates are the warmer months of summer and early fall. About three to six days after exposure, children experience a mild to moderate fever (100 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit), general fatigue, and a sore mouth or throat.
Within a few days, small lesions develop in the mouth, not usually far back into the throat or on the tonsils, but on the tongue, under the lips, and on the sides of the mouth. They initially appear as vesicles (similar to chicken pox) on a reddened base and aren't usually as painful as they look. The lesions may be single or may occur in small groups. As they age, they can begin to look more like ulcers.
Vesicles then begin to appear on the hands and feet (the hands more often than the feet) but not in great numbers, and usually no more than a half dozen on any extremity. At times, the trunk, thighs, or buttocks may also be affected.