Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

HFMD is a generally mild and self-limiting childhood disease that can spread wherever children congregate.

16 Mar 2023

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Understanding Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease

HFMD is a generally mild and self-limiting childhood disease that can spread wherever children congregate. HFMD is endemic in Singapore and can affect all ages but young children are more susceptible, especially those below 5 years of age who constitute the at-risk population. HFMD is caused by intestinal viruses known as enteroviruses.

How is HFMD transmitted

HFMD is spread from person to person by direct contact with the nasal discharge, saliva, faeces, and fluids from the blisters of an infected person.

Symptoms of HFMD

A person with HFMD usually presents with the following:


Sore throat

Rash (flat or raised red spots) or small blisters on palms of hands, soles of feet, or buttocks

Mouth ulcers

Poor appetite


The clinical presentation may vary between individuals, and at different stages of the disease. E.g. some may only have a rash or some individuals may show no symptoms at all.

Risk of HFMD

Most cases of HFMD are mild and self-limiting. Serious complications involving the nervous system and heart can occur, but are rare.

If you suspect your child has HFMD, and symptoms are accompanied by changes in their normal behaviour, like drowsiness, persistent vomiting or refusal to eat/ drink, take your child to visit a medical practitioner.

Treatment for HFMD

HFMD is usually mild and self-limiting. No specific treatment is available; however, treatment can be given to relieve the symptoms of the disease.

Prevention of HFMD transmission

Maintaining high standards of personal and environmental hygiene helps to minimise transmission of HFMD. Parents should inform their child’s school, kindergarten or childcare centre immediately if their child has HFMD, so they can monitor other children closely and take additional precautions.

In addition to the above, parents should ensure that their children:

Stay at home and away from public places;

Has no more symptoms of HFMD and if applicable, that the medical certificate issued by the doctor has expired before returning to school;

Wash their hands with soap frequently e.g. before eating and after going to the toilet;

Cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away immediately;

Do not share food/drinks, eating utensils, toothbrushes or towels with others.

Parents should also ensure that articles such as toys or appliances that are contaminated by nasal or oral secretions are cleaned and disinfected before they are used again.