Outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease can occur among groups of children, including in early childhood education and care services.
Hand, foot and mouth disease is usually a mild illness that occurs mainly in young children, but it can also affect older children and adults.
It is caused by several different enteroviruses and is highly contagious.
Early symptoms include a fever and a runny nose.
This is followed by a sore throat and mouth, with the appearance of blisters in the mouth and on the hands and feet.
The blisters can also occur on the knees, elbows or in the nappy area and last for up to 10 days.
The main way hand, foot and mouth disease is spread is through contact with the fluid from inside the blisters or with the droplets spread from sneezing, coughing or talking.
Children can pass it on by touching other children, or toys that other children will play with.
If you suspect an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease at your service, please phone the nearest
public health unit as soon as possible so they can provide advice and assistance.
Services can help protect children and staff by taking the following actions.
Ensure effective hygiene practices
Wash and dry hands using soap and running water or frequently use alcohol-based hand rub if hands are potentially contaminated from touching multiple surfaces.
Use appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves and/or masks as appropriate when dealing with potentially contaminated surfaces and potentially infectious bodily fluids.
Clean surfaces, equipment and toys frequently and thoroughly. Refer to
Staying healthy in childcare for directions.
Avoid sharing cups, eating utensils, towels and clothing.
- Teach children about
cough and sneeze etiquette.
Exclude unwell children and staff
Children with hand, foot and mouth disease should stay at home until they are symptom-free and all blisters have completely dried.
Time Out poster (PDF, 1.6MB) provides guidance on how long children and staff with infectious conditions should stay at home to minimise the spread of the illness.
Ensure parents know the symptoms and keep their child at home if they are unwell.
Parents can assist in the prevention of the spread of hand, foot and mouth disease by reporting the illness to the director of their service.
Ensure parents are aware of the requirement to exclude unwell children from childcare.