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HFMD: Everything You Need to Know About This Debilitating Disease

It's a common misconception that hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) only occur in babies. Learn how the virus affects adults and how to prevent it.

Woman showing tiny, red rash spots that have developed on the palms of her hands

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) commonly affects infants and children ages below 5. However, did you know that adults can also be at risk of infection?  

HFMD is primarily caused by coxsackieviruses that live in the human digestive tract. Typically, the disease can pass from one person through close contact with an infected person — hugging, kissing, sharing cups or utensils. Similarly, people can also expose themselves to infection if they touch an infected person’s faeces or contaminated objects or are exposed to respiratory droplets that contain virus particles after a sick person coughs or sneezes. 

Here’s a guide to the symptoms of HFMD and steps that you can take to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with this highly contagious virus.

A sad woman holding a piece of bread as she stares into the distance
One of the first few signs of HFMD is a lack of appetite.

 The Symptoms of HFMD  

Interestingly, infected adults may not present with any physical symptoms of HFMD. Thus, it can be difficult for them to get treatment before infecting other people.


The first signs of an HFMD virus infection are fatigue, a fever, sore throat, or lack of appetite. Subsequently, the fever can develop into painful sores in the mouth. Medically known as herpangina, these sores will usually present at the back of the mouth, can blister, and cause extreme pain.


At the same time, an itchy skin rash may also develop on a person’s palms, toes, or feet soles. These tiny red spots can also progress to other areas like the buttocks, stomach, and genital area.

Woman rinsing her lather-filled hands under clean tap water
Washing your hands with soap and clean water effectively curbing the spread of infectious viruses like HFMD.

3 Ways to Prevent an HFMD Infection 

Unfortunately, there is no cure or vaccine available for this disease. Nevertheless, a person usually recovers within 7-10 days. On a brighter note, you can take a few steps to resist a potential infection.

Practise good hygiene 

Washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and clean water can help to prevent an HFMD infection. Ideally, adults should wash their hands immediately after changing a child’s diaper, using the toilet, blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing, or attending to a sick person’s needs. 

Alternatively, if a person doesn’t have access to soap and clean water, they may opt to use an alcohol-based sanitiser to quickly reduce the number of germs on their hands. In addition, it’s important to disinfect frequently touched surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution or soap or detergent-based household cleaner. These include doorknobs and door handles, light switches, tables, and countertops.

Avoid close contact with infected people 

If a family member or friend has HFMD, you should refrain from hugging or kissing them. In the same way, if you’ve been diagnosed with the disease, stay home to avoid potentially spreading the disease to others.

Boost your immunity naturally 

A strong immune system is one of the most effective ways to repel the HFMD virus. There are several ways to boost your immunity naturally. These include eating nutritious foods, drinking enough water, getting quality sleep nightly, managing stress, and regularly performing physical activity.

Health Supplements to Support Your Immunity 

The consumption of health supplements can also support immune-boosting lifestyle habits.

Green Propolis 

Researchers find green propolis extract from Brazil to demonstrate anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects whilst enhancing the immune system. It also has uses in treating gastrointestinal disorders like colitis, gastritis, mucositis and peptic ulcers. In fact, the ingredient has shown a potential ability to treat gastrointestinal cancer. Furthermore, the efficacy of this potent Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) formulation is supported by the findings of various accomplished scholars and institutions. 

For instance, French scientist Professor Remy Chauvin proved in 1968 that it’s not possible for bacteria to culture in beehives. Meanwhile, in 1987, Oxford University discovered that propolis has 149 active bio-components. Then, in 1991, the World Bee Conference certified that propolis has approximately 100 natural crude drug ingredients, including flavonoids. In that same year, Tetsuya Matsuno from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases also presented breakthrough evidence that propolis contains 3 anti-cancer agents which can destroy cancer cells without causing any side effects.


Probiotics is another health supplement that can enhance the immune system and reduce an adult’s risk of an HFMD infection. This attributes to probiotics’ primary function, which is to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestines. Though, it’s worth noting that both probiotics and Brazilian green propolis extract are not suitable for children below 1. Asthmatics and people with allergies should also refrain from consuming these supplements as they can trigger anaphylaxis — an adverse and potentially life-threatening bodily reaction.

Bo Ying Compound 

For children, a herbal remedy called Bo Ying Compound can help treat paediatric illnesses like HFMD. Formulated through generations of wisdom, this traditional supplement is backed by modern research. Specifically, clinical studies showed that you can consume Bo Ying Compound to reduce heat and detoxify the body without causing any side effects. 

Studies have shown that hospitalised patients revealed that TCM treatment could reduce the disease severity and mortality. The use of TCM herbs like isatis root (ban lan gen, 板蓝根), anerbia root(zi cao, 紫草), and honey suckle (jin yin hua, 金银花) can potentially ease specific HFMD symptoms. Bo Ying Compound may also help relieve symptoms of mild HFMD. However, for severe cases, TCM can be used as a complementary treatment for adults and children prone to side effects of oral anaesthesia. 

Prevention is better than cure is an age-old proverb that still holds today. Hence, adults need to heed this advice to ensure that their children and themselves can stave off HFMD and other contagious infections. 



  1. Penn Medicine. 2018. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease in Adults. [Accessed 19 October 2021] 
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevent Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. [Accessed 19 October 2021] 
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. [Accessed 19 October 2021] 
  4. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2014. Comparison between Chinese Herbal Medicines and Conventional Therapy in the Treatment of Severe Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial. [Accessed 19 October 2021] 
  5. Medicine. 2020. Effect of heat-clearing and detoxifying Chinese medicines combined with conventional therapy on mild hand, foot, and mouth disease with fever. [Accessed 19 October 2021] 
  6. Hindawi. 2018. Propolis and Its Potential to Treat Gastrointestinal Disorders. [Accessed 19 October 2021] 

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