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Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Emergency Medicine Medication

  • Author: Pamela L Dyne, MD; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
Updated: Apr 10, 2016

Medication Summary

No specific therapy for hand-foot-and-mouth (HFM) disease has been identified. Antibiotics are not indicated unless a complicating secondary skin infection is present.

Standard dosages of antipyretics (eg, acetaminophen, ibuprofen) are recommended on an as-needed basis for fever and analgesia.

Codeine can be used for significant pain that is not controlled with ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Topical treatments include diphenhydramine and lidocaine (or benzocaine). Lidocaine or benzocaine should only be applied with a cotton swab (and infrequently) to specific areas to avoid toxicity.[7]


Analgesic agents

Class Summary

Pain control is essential for quality patient care. Some analgesics (eg, acetaminophen, ibuprofen) also are effective for treating fever.

Acetaminophen (Feverall, Tempra, Tylenol)


Inhibits action of endogenous pyrogens on heat-regulating centers; reduces fever by a direct action on the hypothalamic heat-regulating centers, which, in turn, increase the dissipation of body heat via sweating and vasodilation. Effective for treating fever and relieving mild-to-moderate pain.

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)


Effective for treating fever or mild-to-moderate pain. Inhibits inflammatory reactions and pain by decreasing prostaglandin synthesis.



Indicated for moderate to severe pain. Binds to opiate receptors in CNS, causing inhibition of ascending pain pathways, altering perception and response to pain.

Diphenhydramine (Benylin)


Elicits antipruritic activity and weak local anesthetic action. Used topically for temporary relief of pruritus or pain.

Lidocaine anesthetic (Xylocaine)


Available as a gel or viscous oral solution. Decreases permeability of neuronal membranes to sodium ions, resulting in inhibition of depolarization and blocking transmission of nerve impulses. Initial treatment of choice for small sparse ulcers. Does not decrease healing time but may allow patient to better tolerate eating and drinking. Pain relief may be short lived, and frequent applications may be necessary.

Benzocaine (Cepacol, Orajel)


PABA derivative ester-type local anesthetic, minimally absorbed. Inhibits neuronal membrane depolarization, blocking nerve impulses. Used to control pain.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Pamela L Dyne, MD Professor of Clinical Medicine/Emergency Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine; Attending Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center

Pamela L Dyne, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Heather Kesler DeVore, MD Assistant Professor, Clinical Attending Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Georgetown University Hospital and Washington Hospital Center

Heather Kesler DeVore, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, Emergency Medicine Residents' Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Stacy Sawtelle, MD Clinical Instructor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Wayne Wolfram, MD, MPH Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Mercy St Vincent Medical Center; Chairman, Pediatric Institutional Review Board, Mercy St Vincent Medical Center, Toledo, Ohio

Wayne Wolfram, MD, MPH is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Russell W Steele, MD Clinical Professor, Tulane University School of Medicine; Staff Physician, Ochsner Clinic Foundation

Russell W Steele, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Immunologists, American Pediatric Society, American Society for Microbiology, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Louisiana State Medical Society, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, Society for Pediatric Research, Southern Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

William G Gossman, MD, FAAEM Associate Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, Creighton University School of Medicine; Chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine, Creighton University Medical Center

William G Gossman, MD, FAAEM is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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The lower lip has an ulcer with an erythematous halo.
The tongue has an ulcer with an erythematous halo.
A typical cutaneous lesion has an elliptical vesicle surrounded by an erythematous halo. The long axis of the lesion is oriented along the skin lines.
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