Natural Approaches to Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a viral illness that is spreading like wildfire this year. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is Baby with Hand, Foot and Mouth Diseaserarely serious, but it is extremely unpleasant and highly contagious. (HFMD is not related to Hoof and Mouth Disease, an illness that only affects animals.) Caused by the Coxsackie A virus, HFMD usually only affects children under the age of five. Many children are exposed but never have any symptoms because their body naturally vanquishes the virus. Those who become ill may experience a wide variety of different symptoms. The virus is extremely contagious, typically spread by mucus, liquid from sores and feces.

Potential Symptoms

The typical case of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease may include:

  • A fever, usually below 102 degrees F
  • Fatigue and generally feeling unwell
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea (not always)
  • Sores in the mouth and throat (usually appear two to three days after the initial symptoms.) Sores may also be visible on the tonsils.
  • Red bumps that do not itch but may be sore. The bumps usually turn into blisters that weep fluid. HFMD is often confused with Chicken Pox due to these bumps. The bumps usually appear first on the hands and feet, but can appear anywhere on the body.

Natural Options

It is important to note that Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is caused by a virus. Antibiotics will not help. The mainstream approach is to soothe the symptoms and let the virus run its course. There are natural approaches that will bring relief and which are said to shorten the duration of the virus. My favorites include:

  • Clove Tea:  Cloves have a numbing effect. A tea made from one tablespoon of cloves and one cup or more of purified water will be very soothing to sores in the mouth. An added benefit is that cloves are also mildly antibacterial and antiviral. The tea may be drunk warm or cold. Add a bit of stevia or honey to sweeten if needed. Several of my clients have said clove tea was a lifesaver while their child had HFMD.
  • Elderberry Syrup:  Elderberry syrup is one of the most potent antiviral agents known. An added benefit is that it tastes good, so getting kids to take it is not difficult. Follow the instructions on the bottle to determine how much to give your child. If you have more than one child but only one is sick, the other children can be given Elderberry Syrup as an immunity booster even if they are not visibly ill.
  • Homeopathic Mercurius Solubis:  This remedy is known to help reduce the pain of the mouth sores and to be especially good to help children sleep at night. Homeopathics are a nice option because they have no side effects and do not interact with any prescription medications. They are very potent and very easy to take. Follow the dosage recommended on the bottle. (Dosage should be cut in half for children under 1 year of age, but the tiny tablets can be dissolved in water if needed.) To maintain their effectiveness, homeopathic remedies should not be administered within 10 minutes of eating or drinking anything other than water, and should not be given within an hour of brushing the teeth if a toothpaste with mint is used. (The mint blocks the body’s ability to absorb the homeopathic remedy.) You have my permission to stop brushing teeth while the child has mouth sores, as the experience may be extremely traumatic and painful.
  • Potent Broths:  Some children are unwilling to eat and drink while they have HFMD due to the sores in their mouth. Giving them nutrient-rich broths is an easy way to boost immunity while providing nutrients and keeping the child hydrated. Since salt will sting, try to make your own salt-free broths using organic bones, organic veggies, garlic and onions, rosemary, turmeric, thyme, etc. (Each of those ingredients is known to help boost immunity.) Adding some organic coconut oil will help coat the sores and be soothing. Coconut oil is known to be mildly antiviral, so it’s a win-win.
  • Good Ol’ Vitamin C:  Vitamin is known to help the body heal tissues and is known to boost immunity. If using a liquid Vitamin C, you may need to dilute it to help the liquid not sting. If only one of your children has HFMD, it makes sense to give your other children Vitamin C while the sick child is contagious.
  • Soothing Baths:  A soothing bath that is warm but not overly hot may help children calm down before bed and is known to help the body eliminate toxins. Helpful additives during HFMD include Lavender Essential Oil (5-10 drops), 1/2-1 cup Epsom Salts, 1/2 cup coconu oil, 1 cup of Bentonite Clay, 1 cup of Baking Soda, 1 cup of Chamomile and/or Calendula petals, etc.

Stopping the Spread

Unfortunately, Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is most contagious 3-5 days before any symptoms appear. After the symptoms appear, the virus may be spread for up to two weeks. Families with multiple children obviously want to take care to avoid having the entire family wind up sick. The following options are good for helping prevent the spread of HFMD:

  • If possible, dress the sick child in long sleeves and pants to help prevent exposing others to the liquid in the sores. Try to find soft-soled flannel slippers or booties to cover the feet.
  • Blend 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of Vodka. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons Tea Tree Oil and 1/2 teaspoon Lavender Essential Oil. Place the blend in a spray bottle and spray everywhere! Spray on toys, counters, doorknobs, etc.
  • Make children wash hands frequently. (See Hand Sanitizer Alternatives for recipes to make your own toxin-free hand sanitizer.)
  • Don’t allow children to share utensils, water bottles, etc. (I know this is obvious, but figured it was worth mentioning.)
  • Wash bedding as soon as you realize your child has HFMD. Wash bedding again after HFMD has run its course.
  • Throw your child’s toothbrush away and replace it with a new one after HFMD is gone.
  • Contact your child’s school or daycare center to find out what their policy is on when the child can return.

Has your family dealt with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease? What approaches did you find to be the most effective?

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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15 Responses to Natural Approaches to Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

  1. Mufedh says:

    Definitely baking soda baths guys!! Two, three times a day if you have to. My daughters sores never spread because of the baths and I massaged her whole body in unrefined virgin coconut oil. The coconut oil is super anti-viral.

  2. Aneta says:

    Hi my two boys have HFMD, and I have questions about the baths , should a put one thing at one bath or all together.

  3. Heather says:

    Thank you for this info. I caught HFMD as a mom, before my child has. I’m struggling to care for my daughter and do my best to keep her healthy, since being a mom is a hands-on job. I’m constantly washing my hands or wearing gloves, as well as socks and pants. I’m wondering, if the sores on my hands aren’t open and pussy, are my washed hands contagious?

  4. Emma Lee Wagner says:

    Hi, my 14 month old daughter just got Hfmd. She’s past the first few days of fever and just getting the spots. But, she keeps getting more and then she’ll itch them open. I was told putting clove oil on them will help. Is that true? My husband just started to get a few spots also…

    • Clove oil is not safe for use on infants under age 2, and would burn the skin if used undiluted. I do not recommend that option, nor do I recommend taking essential oil advice from untrained hobbyists. Kudos to you for questioning that advice and checking.

  5. Mareeka says:

    I have a question. My child has HFMD. Should I clean all the toys after the disease has spread its course?

  6. Divya says:

    Hello Pamela, My kid suffers from HFMD. Bumps are sighted for past two days. Can I apply turmeric on the bumps?

  7. Sophie says:

    Thank you for this useful information. loves the natural approach listed above.

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