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The Surprising Reasons Behind Hand, Foot, and Mouth Illness That Affects Adults

Dr Rishika Agarwal 344 Views
Updated: 18 Dec 2023
Published: 18 Dec 2023

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is often thought of as a childhood illness, but a growing number of cases in adults have raised eyebrows in recent years. In this blog, we'll delve into the surprising reasons behind Hand, Foot, and Mouth Illness in adults, exploring its causes and shedding light on effective treatments for those affected.

What Is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Illness in Adults?

HFMD is a highly contagious viral illness that commonly affects children, causing a rash and sores on the hands, feet, and in the mouth. However, adults can also fall prey to this viral infection. Symptoms in adults mimic those in children, including fever, sore throat, and the characteristic rash.

Transmission and Causes in Adults

Viral Strains Affecting Adults

One surprising aspect of HFMD in adults is the diversity of viral strains causing the illness. While children are typically affected by the Coxsackievirus A16 and Enterovirus 71, adults can be susceptible to various strains, making the disease more challenging to predict and prevent.

Environmental Factors Contributing to Adult Cases

Adult-onset HFMD is not solely about exposure to infected children. Environmental factors play a role, with increased cases noted in crowded spaces, shared facilities, and certain workplaces. Understanding these triggers is crucial in devising effective preventive strategies.

The Surprising Factors Behind Adult Onset HFMD

Weakening of Immunity in Certain Conditions

One of the surprising factors contributing to HFMD in adults is the weakening of the immune system in specific conditions. Chronic illnesses, stress, and other immune-compromising factors can make adults more susceptible to the virus.

Immunocompromised Individuals and Their Risk

People with weakened immune systems, like those going through chemotherapy or dealing with autoimmune issues, have a higher chance of experiencing severe symptoms of HFMD. Recognizing this susceptibility is crucial for prompt identification and treatment.

Healthcare Workers and Increased Vulnerability

Healthcare workers, despite their exposure to various illnesses, may find themselves at a higher risk of contracting HFMD due to their close contact with patients. The importance of stringent hygiene practices in healthcare settings cannot be overstated.

Other Professions with Higher Risk

Beyond healthcare, certain professions involve frequent interaction with the public, putting individuals at a higher risk of exposure. Teachers, daycare workers, and service industry professionals may encounter the virus in their workplace, necessitating awareness and preventive measures.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Treatment for Adults

Here are some of the best hand, foot, and mouth disease treatment for adults:

Fever Reducers

Fever is a usual HFMD symptom in adults, contributing to malaise and discomfort. Medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can lower elevated temperatures and enhance overall comfort. Sufficient rest is crucial to enable the body to recover from the viral infection.

Antiviral Medications

In instances of severe conditions or for individuals with weakened immune systems, medical professionals might recommend antiviral drugs. These medications work to hinder the virus's replication, potentially lessening the intensity and duration of symptoms. Antiviral drugs may not work equally for all viral strains. Their efficacy depends on the specific infection. Additionally, these medications might not be suitable for everyone, so a healthcare professional should carefully assess their use.

Hydration and Nutrition

Maintaining proper hydration is critical during HFMD, as the presence of sores in the mouth can make eating and drinking uncomfortable. Adults with HFMD should focus on consuming ample fluids, including water, clear soups, and electrolyte-rich beverages, to prevent dehydration. Soft, easy-to-swallow foods can be included in the diet to ensure proper nutrition without exacerbating discomfort.

Rest and Isolation Precautions

Rest is a fundamental component of HFMD recovery. Adequate sleep and downtime support the body's immune response and aid in the healing process. Additionally, adults with HFMD should follow isolation precautions to prevent the spread of the virus to others. This includes avoiding close contact with family members, friends, and colleagues, especially those who may be more vulnerable to severe complications.

Pain-Relieving Topical Treatments

Rest is a fundamental component of HFMD recovery. Adequate sleep and downtime support the body's immune response and aid in the healing process. Additionally, adults with HFMD should follow isolation precautions to prevent the spread of the virus to others. This includes avoiding close contact with family members, friends, and colleagues, especially those who may be more vulnerable to severe complications.

Warm Saltwater Rinses

Gargling with warm salt water can help soothe sore throats and mouth sores. This simple home remedy can be performed several times a day to reduce discomfort and promote healing.

Cool Compresses and Oatmeal Baths

For individuals with painful skin lesions on the hands and feet, cool compresses and oatmeal baths can be soothing. Cool compresses can be applied to affected areas, while oatmeal baths can help relieve itching and inflammation.

Prevention Strategies for Adults

Handwashing Techniques

Proper handwashing is a fundamental preventive measure. Thorough handwashing with soap and water, especially after contact with potentially contaminated surfaces, significantly reduces the risk of infection.

Disinfection of Surfaces

Regular disinfection of surfaces in shared spaces, workplaces, and homes is crucial in preventing the spread of HFMD. High-touch surfaces should be cleaned frequently to eliminate the virus.

HFMD Vaccines

Research into HFMD vaccines for adults is ongoing. Stay updated on current developments, as vaccination may become a significant preventive measure in the future.

Recommendations for Adults

In the absence of a specific HFMD vaccine for adults, staying up-to-date on routine vaccinations, especially those that boost overall immune function, is recommended.


Hand, Foot, and Mouth Illness in adults is a complex and often underestimated health concern. By understanding the surprising causes and effective treatments, we can better equip ourselves to prevent, recognize, and manage HFMD in the adult population. Heightened awareness, improved hygiene, and continuous research are crucial to tackling this developing health concern. Stay informed, stay watchful, and prioritise both your well-being and that of those in your vicinity.

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