It’s a hot balmy night in Perth WA and as I type this my youngest is asleep in our family bedroom with a bead of sweat on his upper lip despite the rhythmic tapping of the overhead fan as it beats lacklusterly through the heavy February air. The sores on his feet are nearly healed, with the scabs peeling away in flakes of dry skin. Despite his recent virus, his mouth and arms have already returned to the smooth unmarked skin of children.
He’s one of four children that I have seen with hand foot and mouth disease (HFM) this week, so I thought I’d share my tips to treat it naturally in the hopes that it will be speed your recovery and prevent suffering needlessly.
HFM is usually a fairly mild, self limiting virus characterised by fluid filled lesions in the soft skin folds of the hands, feet, mouth, inner elbows, back of knees and groin areas. They are red, inflamed looking blisters that can be filled with a clear yellow fluid. One person might find them to be insanely itchy, while another person might feel little discomfort.
24-48 hours prior to the lesions appearing, there is a fever and a feeling of impending sickness- you know that feeling when you’re coming down with something? In HFM it’s usually it’s a sore throat, feeling a bit tired and low appetite.
HFM can occur as a result of a number of Enterovirus, each of which have different severity and possible disease progressions. So even if you get it once, that doesn’t mean you won’t get it again, however the target audience for this virus is usually kids under the age of 10. That was reflected in my family, as my (nearly) 7 year old didn’t get any symptoms even though his younger brother did.
Symptoms of the virus usually last less than 7 days, but the contagious period can be up to 3 weeks with viral matter being shed in faeces. The lesions themselves are not contagious once they are dry and scabbed and are no longer weeping or fluid filled.
The lesions are quite similar to chicken pox in appearance. However, chicken pox starts on the stomach, back and face and will occur all over the body, while HFM is more localised and the disease is usually shorter in duration. If you do present to a GP for diagnosis, request a swab is taken for proper identification as the treatments have some overlap, but viral replication in chickenpox is disabled by the amino acid lysine, so it would be an important addition to your treatment options if it is chicken pox.
Enough of the background info. You’re here for answers!
How do you treat hand foot and mouth disease? How can you help them to heal quickly and simply?
- During the fever phase, I always reach for a homeopathic such as Traumeel (my all-time favourite remedy) which contains aconite, belladonna, arnica and other great anti-inflammatory homeopathics before I even consider a pharmaceutical. But hey, I’m a pragmatist, in the middle of the night with a hot grumpy child, I trust you to make the best decision for your family with the tools you have on hand.
- After the fever, but before the lesions, while you are still in no-mans land waiting to see what is coming, wondering whether it will be new teeth, an earache, or maybe a flu; all while crossing your fingers and hoping it was a weird blip, that’s when you ALWAYS hedge your bets and add in the nutritional immune supports- vitamins A, C, D, Zinc and probiotics. I used a practitioner only C-Max powder in this instance because the ingredients are great and it tastes nice, but both Ethical Nutrients and Blackmores do good vitamin C and Zinc formulas that are readily available. During this twilight zone of any illness, while you are waiting for the full storm to arrive it’s always a good idea to cut out inflammatory foods such as dairy, grains, sugar, meats and anything processed and increase your healing foods such as raw fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds to give your immune system a fighting chance.
- Lesion Day! At the onset, the lesions can look like a mild heat rash and may take a day or so to differentiate into the characteristic blister type lesions. Once you suspect what you are dealing with you can add in the homeopathics Rhus Tox and/or Merc Sulph in 6X, 30C or 200C. Whichever you have will be fine, but 30C or 200C would be preferable. Also if you happen to have any Quentakehl by Sanum it is well indicated. If the stars are aligned and you’re lucky enough to be near a good homeopath, source a Nosode made from the HFM virus’s to speed the healing.
- Topically, a zinc based ointment is great to dry and heal the lesions and soothe the itching. Calamine would work in a pinch, but something thicker such as a nappy cream is ideal. Something with calendula would also be helpful. We happened to have some of the Weleda one left over from our nappying days, which luckily has both zinc and calendula.
- Continue all treatments until healing is complete, but reduce the dosing frequency of any homeopathics as healing occurs.
- If you suspect a secondary bacterial infection in the lesions (ie, they clump together and get yellow pus) consider using golden seal ointment or iodine ointment applied topically.
Good luck guys, I hope this is useful to you and helps you or your little one to heal quickly and simply. By utilising these remedies and strategies, my little one only had wet lesions for 2 days, they were dry by the 3rd day, fully scabbed by the 4th and completely gone except for the peeling feet on day 5. He also reported no itching or discomfort “unless I pulled at the skin, like I did dat day we went fishing wib Pop”.
Let me know in the comments below if there’s anything you try that is especially helpful, or if you find something else that worked a treat so that I can add it to this list.