Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is Contagious to Adults

Over the 4th of July holiday my girls were hit with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD). The girls had it about a year ago, but it was mild. This was a mild case as well, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The girls had just started pre-school, and we had several family members coming into town for some big family events. These family members had little kids all around the same age as my girls — toddlers. And we all couldn’t be more excited to play together, many for the first time.

Here are some basic facts about Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease:

  • You can contract it from just about anywhere.
  • It’s common among infants and toddlers.
  • The disease is not contracted between humans and animals, although the name is similar to Foot and Mouth Disease.
  • The virus is a member of the chicken pox family.
  • Once a person builds up enough immunity to the virus, your risk of contracting it becomes minimal to none.
  • It is rarely contracted by adults (supposedly).
  • You are infected with the virus and are contagious before any symptoms actually appear.
  • Sores are usually apparent for about 7 to 14 days.

What is confusing, and well, frankly, disparaging about managing the disease were the various opinions on the following:

  • How contagious HFMD really is from children to adults.
  • What the incubation period is for HFMD really is.

In speaking with our medical professionals and to other parents of toddlers, we heard the following advice:

  • You are contagious for 24 hours after the fever subsides, but you still have the sores.
  • You are contagious for 48 hours after the fever subsides, but you still have the sores.
  • You are contagious for up to two days AFTER the sores disappear.
  • Adults cannot get HFMD from children because they have the immunity built up.

Confusing, right? As I began to tell people about our situation, I began hearing stories about recent cases of adults getting the disease from their children and grandchildren. And when the adults went in to see their doctor, they were often misdiagnosed because doctors who treat adults don’t know what it is and run all sorts of tests and ask off-the-wall questions… it is not as common in adults as it is in children (our doctor took one look and said we had HFMD).

I am not going to get into the details of what the sores look like, or how it is contracted, but this post is a PSA for medical professionals to get on the same page, and come to a consensus of how contagious this disease is and how to best manage the disease to curb the spread of the virus. Maybe they should look at the incubation of the chicken pox and recommend the same guidelines for HFMD?

According to NBC San Diego, cases of HFMD is on the increase, especially during the summer. Read more about that here.

In Cambodia, as many as 50 infants and toddlers have died from a severe strain of HFMD called Enterovirus 71. According to the Washington Post, “the outbreak has drawn international attention because of long-standing fears that poor countries such as Cambodia could be incubators for new, virulent disease strains that defy treatment.” U.S. public health officials are keeping a close watch on what is going on in this part of the world and how it may affect citizens here.

Because a person is contagious before they even know they have HFMD, what can be done to help prevent the spread of virus?

  • Washing hands is the best prevention. (CDC)
  • Properly apply hand sanitizers, by rubbing the product all over your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. (CDC)

Be sure to connect with your medical provider to answer questions specific to you or your family. This post is not meant to replace medical expert diagnosis, rather to create dialog about the issue.

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8 thoughts on “Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is Contagious to Adults

  1. Thanks for sharing this Denise. Elodie has had HFMD (Coxsackie Virus) twice already! The first time was absolutely, unbelievably terrible. She didn’t eat for a week and weaned from bfing. I had to syringe fluid into her mouth and force her to swallow every 15 minutes for days. Awful.

    The second time around was more mild, but I didn’t even realize what it was because I thought you could only catch it one time. But there are different strains of the virus, so you can catch it over and over. :(

    I agree, there isn’t as much information and consensus on the topic as there should be. Thanks for writing this informative post.

  2. I didn’t realize that so many different people (including professionals) were so differing in their advice about HFM. We have, luckily, not gone through this but will definitely be washing more often and using hand sanitizer. I hope you guys are feeling better!

  3. We are definitely on the mend! When the girls got it the first time, we were told that they wouldn’t get it again. But there are new strains, apparently, and that’s what made us repeat offenders. We had a very mild case which makes me wonder if we will get it again.

  4. That is tough to have once let alone twice – regardless if a mild case – just because you feel isolated and toddlers hate being couped up. Glad you’re healing. I tend not to trust the medical community near as much as my own research and anecdotal evidence, so good for you in talking to people about it so you could get properly diagnosed. I have had moms say they simply won’t play at indoor play spaces because of things like HFMD, but you can get it from virtually anywhere.

  5. Oh no! So it is contagious to adults too? To be honest, I had not heard about HFMD until you had told me the girls came down with it. I\’m glad the girls are feeling better. Thank you for sharing this valuable information.

  6. We have been stricken twice…most recently this past week! My oldest daughter, who is now 7 had it at age three in early July and showed the typical symptoms and bounced back after a couple days. I believe she got it after visiting an indoor children’s museum. I was sick as a dog! Flu-like…fever, fatigue, body aches..just awful. My husband had milder symptoms. My youngest, age 4 has been complaining this week of a headache, sore throat and has had a rash under her arms…we attributed to swimmies chafing against her skin. Last night, my oldest started with a runny eye so my pedi prescribed eye drops and the younger one woke up with a red, puffy eye. I was also sick last week and spent one day in bed with major body aches and head ache. SO…July is a germie month and HFMD is rampid! There are multiple strains and adults can most certainly get it..over and over! I really hope it’s the last of it in our house.

  7. Forgot to add…my 4 year old broke out in the spots on her lower body and under lip :( That’s when it hit me. HFMD!!

  8. I’m sitting here with blisters on my hands and feet and other little itchy bumbs because our doctor didnt tell us adults could contract the virus.

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