Differentiating Impetigo from Hand Foot and Mouth Disease


Is your kid experiencing sores in their mouth? Here, we’ll talk about the Impetigo vs. Hand Foot Mouth similarities and differences to help you determine which illness your child has. They’re quite common among young children, so it’s best to know the signs of each illness and how to treat them.

What is hand, foot, and mouth disease?

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease typically begins with fever, decreased appetite, a sore throat, and overall discomfort. Within a day or two after the onset of a fever, painful mouth sores may emerge. These sores often start as small red spots at the back of the mouth, which then blister and can turn into ulcers.

Additionally, a skin rash with red spots, sometimes blistering, might appear on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet within one to two days. In some cases, this rash can also manifest on the knees, elbows, buttocks, or genital area.

What is impetigo ?

Impetigo is a frequently occurring and easily transmissible skin infection, primarily impacting infants and children. It typically manifests as red sores on the face, particularly around the nose and mouth, as well as on the hands and feet. These sores rupture and form crusts with a honey-like color.

Impetigo vs. HFM Distinctions

A key difference between impetigo and Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) lies in the location of the sores. While impetigo typically results in sores only on the skin, HFMD can cause sores both inside and outside the mouth. Another distinguishing factor is fever; it’s more commonly associated with HFMD than impetigo . Furthermore, if the sores are primarily concentrated on the hands, feet, and inside the mouth, it’s more likely to be HFMD rather than impetigo. These differences help in distinguishing between the two conditions for parents who have recently experienced them with their children.

Is Hand Foot and Mouth Disease the same as Impetigo?

No, they’re different. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (caused by the coxsackievirus) and impetigo may affect young children and spread easily. However, they’re caused by different things. HFMD is caused by a virus, while impetigo is a bacterial infection. It’s important to watch out for other signs to distinguish between them. HFMD often comes with symptoms like fever, decreased appetite, fussiness, and a sore throat.

On the other hand, impetigo, especially in its early stages, primarily affects the skin without causing internal symptoms. Knowing these differences can help in identifying the right condition and seeking appropriate treatment.

How to treat impetigo vs hand, foot and mouth disease

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Unfortunately, there’s no particular cure for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD). You’ll mostly have to let it run its course. However, there are some things you can do to ease your child’s discomfort. According to the CDC, you can give them over-the-counter pain relievers and mouth sprays to help numb the pain.

For instance, a topical oral anesthetic can be helpful in easing the pain caused by mouth sores. You can find these over-the-counter. Additionally, pain medications like acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (like Advil or Motrin IB) can also help in relieving general discomfort. It’s important to always follow the recommended dosage instructions and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or questions about using these medications.

Relief for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Certain foods and drinks can aggravate blisters in the mouth or throat. Here are some suggestions to alleviate the discomfort for your child and make eating and drinking easier:

  • Offer ice pops or ice chips to suck on.
  • Serve ice cream or sherbet.
  • Provide cold beverages like water to sip on.
  • Offer warm drinks, such as tea.
  • Avoid acidic foods and drinks like citrus fruits, fruit juices, and soda.
  • Opt for soft foods that require minimal chewing.


The good news about impetigo is that it’s usually treated with an antibiotic ointment or cream that you apply directly to the sores. Before applying the ointment, it might be necessary to soak the affected area in warm water or use wet compresses.

This helps to soften and remove the scabs, allowing the antibiotic to penetrate the skin more effectively. This treatment approach can help in clearing up the infection and promoting healing. Always follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider when using antibiotic treatments.

Relief for Impetigo

If you have a mild infection that hasn’t spread, you might consider using an over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment to treat the sores. Applying this directly to the affected area can help fight off the infection. To keep the sores contained and prevent them from spreading, you can also cover them with a nonstick bandage.

Remember to prevent kids from sharing personal items like towels or sports equipment while they’re still contagious, as this can help prevent the infection from spreading to others. Taking these precautions can aid in managing the infection and promoting a quicker recovery for your children.

Keep HFMD and Impetigo from Spreading by Knowing the Signs and Proper Treatment

To ensure the well-being of your child and facilitate a swift recovery from Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease or impetigo , it’s crucial to recognize the symptoms and take appropriate measures. Educate yourself about the differences between these conditions and seek medical advice if needed. Provide comfort to your child by offering soothing remedies and following proper treatment protocols. By taking proactive steps and adhering to preventive measures, you can help alleviate their discomfort and prevent the spread of infection to others.

Scroll to Top