Yes, you can get hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) twice. HFMD is caused by several kinds of viruses. So even if you’ve had it, you can get it again — similar to the way you can catch a cold or the flu more than once.
Why it happens
HFMD is caused by viruses, including:
- coxsackievirus A16
- other enteroviruses
When you recover from a viral infection, your body becomes immune to that virus. This means your body will recognize the virus and be better able to fight it if you get it again.
But you can catch a different virus that causes the same illness, making you sick again. Such is the case with a second occurrence of HFMD.
How you get hand, foot, and mouth disease
HFMD is very contagious. It can be passed on to others before it even causes symptoms. For this reason, you may not even know that you or your child is ill.
You can catch the viral infection through contact with:
- surfaces that have the virus on them
- droplets from the nose, mouth, and throat (spread through sneezing or shared drinking glasses)
- blister fluid
- fecal matter
HFMD can also spread from mouth to mouth by kissing or talking closely with someone who has the virus.
The symptoms of HFMD can range from mild to severe.
HFMD is completely different from foot-and-mouth disease in animals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HFMD is a common infection in children younger than 5 years old.
While teens and adults can also get HFMD, infants and toddlers have developing immune systems that can be less resistant to viral infections.
Children this young may also be more likely to put their hands, toys, and other objects into their mouths. This can spread the virus more easily.
What to do when it comes back
Talk to your doctor if you think you or your child has HFMD. Other illnesses can also cause similar symptoms like the skin rash associated with HFMD. It’s important to have your doctor diagnose the illness correctly.
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter treatments to help soothe symptoms of this infection. These include:
- pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- aloe skin gel
Try these home remedies to help calm symptoms and make you or your child more comfortable:
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
- Drink cold water or milk.
- Avoid acidic drinks like orange juice.
- Avoid salty, spicy, or hot foods.
- Eat soft foods like soup and yogurts.
- Eat ice cream or frozen yogurt and sherbets.
- Rinse your mouth with warm water after eating.
Note that antibiotics can’t treat this infection because it’s caused by a virus. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Other medications can’t cure HFMD either.
HFMD usually gets better in 7 to 10 days. It’s more common in the spring, summer, and autumn.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease prevention
Wash your hands
The best way to reduce your chances of getting HFMD is to wash your hands carefully with warm water and soap for about 20 seconds.
It’s especially important to wash your hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and after changing a diaper. Wash your child’s hands regularly.
Try to avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth.
Motivate your child to practice hand-washing
Teach your child how to wash their hands properly. Use a game system like collecting stickers on a chart each time they wash their hands. Try singing simple songs or counting to wash hands an appropriate length of time.
Rinse and air out toys regularly
Wash any toys your child may put into their mouth with warm water and dish soap. Wash blankets and soft toys in the washing machine regularly.
Additionally, put your child’s most-used toys, blankets, and stuffed animals outside on a clean blanket under the sun to air them out. This may help to naturally get rid of viruses.
Take a break
If your child is ill with HFMD, they should stay home and rest. If you catch it, too, you should also stay home. Don’t go to work, school or a day care center. This helps to avoid spreading the illness.
If you or your child have HFMD or you’re aware that it has gone around a day care center or classroom, consider these preventative measures:
- Avoid sharing dishes or cutlery.
- Teach your child to avoid sharing drink bottles and straws with other children.
- Avoid hugging and kissing others while you’re ill.
- Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, and counters in your home if you or a family member is sick.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease symptoms
You may not have any symptoms of HFMD. Even if you don’t have symptoms at all, you can still pass the virus on to others.
Adults and children who have HFMD can experience:
- mild fever
- tiredness or fatigue
- reduced appetite
- sore throat
- mouth sores or spots
- painful mouth blisters (herpangina)
- skin rash
You might get a skin rash a day or two after feeling unwell. This can be a telltale sign of HFMD. The rash might look like small, flat, red spots. They may bubble or blister.
The rash commonly happens on the hands and the soles of the feet. You can also get the rash elsewhere on the body, most often on these areas:
- pelvic area
You can get HFMD more than once because different viruses can cause this illness.
Talk to a doctor if you or your child is unwell, especially if your family is experiencing HFMD more than once.
Stay home and rest if you have it. This illness usually clears up simply on its own.