How Long is Hand Foot and Mouth Disease Contagious?

We just figured out the boys both have Hand/Foot/Mouth disease which is no big deal.  The issue is that Chantal’s mom just came home from the hospital after having total knee replacement surgery on Monday.  Should we ALL stay away from seeing her?  If yes, for how long? Or it doesn’t matter because it is not like she was sick?
Shane Valentine

Is hand foot mouth contagious? Hands and feet showing Hand-foot-and-mouth disease.

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

Most adults — but not all — have already had Hand Foot and Mouth and are not at risk. There are a few different strains of viruses that cause Hand Foot and Mouth though, so having had the illness once isn’t a guarantee.

Kids may be contagious just by being in the same room while they have a fever and up to 24 hours after. The saliva can contain the virus for up to 2-3 weeks. The stool can contain the virus for 3-8 weeks or so.

Going to School with Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

I don’t recommend keeping kids out of school beyond 24 hours after fever – because there are enough kids in class with it anyway without the fever, and don’t even know they have it. Keeping kids out doesn’t appreciably change the spread.

But I do keep away from “vulnerable” adults not around a lot of kids, if possible. Not in same room if they have a fever, plus 24 hours after the fever is gone. Not sharing same food or utensils while any sores are still present in mouth or on body. No changing diapers or toileting assistance for two months, and good hand-washing all the way around, after toilet and before eating or drinking or hands in the mouth.

If others in the family do get sick, the first symptoms usually occur 3-5 days after getting the virus – and become contagious about the same time (unlike chickenpox where you are contagious 24-48 hours before symptoms).

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.