Natural Treatments for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
You know that moment when you glance at your child and your inner mommy voice says, “Something is wrong?” My sixteen-month-old had just awakened from her afternoon nap in her usual chipper mood and eaten a snack (watermelon, her favorite). In the late afternoon when I am fixing supper, her special treat is twenty minutes of “Timmy Time” on Netflix. When I checked on her, she was engrossed in her favorite show as usual, but her eyes just didn’t look like “her.” I instinctively reached over and felt here forehead. Yep, it was hot. Out of nowhere: temperature of 101.
I was already aware that the Hand, Foot and Mouth virus was going around, thanks to my wonderful network of local mommy friends. After an unnecessary emergency room experience with croup, nowadays my first plan of action is to contact my midwife and my network of naturally-minded moms before having a spaz attack and running to the hospital.
Three different people responded right away by telling me to take the advice in this post from Modern Alternative Mama., which is where I got the majority of the remedies in this post. I have had a lot of success with medicinal herbal treatments. They have been especially helpful during pregnancy and breastfeeding when it is not safe to take over the counter medications. In fact, I have been so impressed with the efficacy of herbal remedies that I have never found it necessary to take another OTC drug since.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is not as horrendous as it sounds. While it is highly contagious, it is not dangerous. It is commonly marked by a fever, sore throat, and loss of appetite, followed by the appearance of a rash on-you guessed it-the hands, feet, and mouth. The rash can appear other places on the body like the legs and bottom. It also manifests as little white sores on the inside of the mouth. The worst thing about this virus is probably the discomfort from the sores, rash and sore throat. The most common time of year for this virus is summer and fall. The virus can be spread even before symptoms show. Knowing that the incubation period for this virus is 3-7 days, I already had an eagle eye on her when the fever showed up.
Whether you use strictly natural remedies at your house, or would simply like to add some natural remedies to your tool box, you’ll love these safe, gentle, and effective treatments.
What To Get
I headed off to my favorite pharmacy: The Nutrition Shoppe, a local store which provides high quality health foods, herbal supplements, and vitamins. I began frequenting the Nutrition Shoppe during my first pregnancy. Once you become more familiar with natural and herbal remedies, you can purchase many of them online at Vitacost.com.
Here’s what I purchased to treat Michaiah’s Hand Foot and Mouth virus:
1.) Elderberry Syrup: Strengthens the immune system. This is a staple at our house. My favorite brand is Nature’s Answer. Since becoming pregnant I discovered the miracle immune-booster that is Elderberry. It reduces the severity of a cold or flu and shortens its duration. It can be taken in a tincture form, or in this case as a syrup (sweeter and less potent). I keep a stock of this in my cabinet, and when I feel a cold coming on, I start downing spoonfuls. For Michaiah, I mixed the recommended amount in her straw sippy cup with a little bit of water and 100% apple juice. Too much can cause diarrhea, so I watch that closely. (We have never had a problem).
2.) Probiotics: Probiotics maximize the benefits of a healthy diet by supporting normal absorption and assimilation of nutrients in the gut. It boosts the immune system and is used as a natural antibiotic. Did you know that most of your immune system is in your stomach? We notice a major reduction in K.K.’s propensity towards sickness when she takes probiotics regularly. The brand I purchased Garden of Life (by Dr. Jordan Rubin). Their vitamins are simply the purest and best. The children’s probiotic comes in the form of a powder.
3.) Lemon Balm Tea: Contains anti-viral properties which speed the recovery of viral infections. The brand I purchased today is by Herb Pharm. This is the first time I have ever had Lemon Balm tea. I got it in a tincture form and used 30 drops in a cup of hot water. The taste is very mild.
4.) Peppermint Tea: Contains anti-viral properties which speed the recovery of viral infections. My favorite herbal tea brand is Traditional Medicinals! They just so happened to have an organic Peppermint Tea, so I grabbed it.
5.) Organic Virgin Coconut Oil: I already had this on hand. Coconut oil is also anti viral. You can use it as a salve directly on the rash, or put a scoop in the bath tub.
6.) Foods: My friend whose son had sores inside of his mouth with this virus had success with popsicles, yogurt, and other cold foods because it was soothing on the sores. From what I could tell, I do not think Michaiah developed any sores on the inside of her mouth, but we fed her smoothies, fruit, and yogurt just in case.
A note about herbal supplements: It is very important to purchase organic, high-quality herbal treatments without additives and fillers like alcohol or sugar. Almost all herbs and vitamins at chain stores (pharmacies, grocery stores or GNC shops) contain these fillers, which reduces the efficacy of the treatment. That is why I recommend purchasing from a legitimate, local health food store, preferably one with knowledgeable staff.
Administering The Remedies
Okay, so you have this list of wonderful, time-tested herbal remedies. Now the complicated part: how do you get this goodness IN your sick baby? All of these remedies can be given mixed with diluted juice, water or even in smoothies. I mixed mine with diluted 100% apple juice or honey, as sweet drinks are a rare treat that normally get devoured. While too much sugar can be in immune suppressant, I’m not against Vitamin C and natural sugars when it comes to coercing fluids into a sick baby, since dehydration is always my greatest concern. (I like coconut water too, since it is a natural super-hydrator.)
What if you child refuses to drink? Michaiah, who usually loves to tote around her sippy cups and begs for drinks from my water bottle all day long, was suddenly uninterested in liquids period. I practically had to be a magician to get her to drink even one sip. The best thing is simply to offer her cup every few minutes. At night when her fever was highest, she would take teeny sips at a time, but I was grateful for what I could get. During the day when her fever is down, she is most apt to eat and drink, so I keep the juice and water coming. Using the herbal remedies mixed with liquids kills two birds with one stone: immunity boosting and hydration.
Since I am pregnant it is important to keep my immune system fortified while caring for a sick little one. I brew the lemon balm and peppermint teas and keep them in a thermal mug to sip throughout the day. I also take spoonfuls of elderberry three times a day along with my prenatal vitamins and DHA.
Update as of 10/31/12: I checked with my midwife (a natural health expert) about using elderberry for prevention. She said that she had not heard of it being used as a preventative measure, although she does recommend taking it to speed recovery if I’m actually sick! Instead, she recommended taking lots of Vitamin C packets like “Emergen-C” throughout the day when trying to boost immunity prevent the onset of a sickness. What About A Fever Reducer?
None of the above treatments will do the same thing as a fever-reducing medicine. They will boost the immune system, but they will not interfere with any of the body’s natural processes. Children can withstand higher temperatures than adults, so the general rule is that there is no cause for alarm unless the the fever reaches above 104 and/or the child appears to be dehydrated. The fever is the body’s natural response to an infection, so monitoring the temperature and keeping the child hydrated is generally the best thing to do.
My philosophy is that as long as a fever is with in a normal range of 100-103, I will stick to natural remedies and allow the fever to do it’s work (which is burning out infection). I feel that the immune system needs to be allowed to operate without unnecessary intervention. However, if a temperature reaches 104, I do opt to administer an over-the-counter fever-reducer. Although I prefer the natural route, I would rather give her medicine at home than end up in the emergency room (where they will give her the medication FOR me, and then send me a huge bill). This wonderful naturopathic article on fevers was especially helpful on explaining fevers.
The Economics of Natural Treatments for Hand, Foot and Mouth
As a bonus, natural treatments are affordable and economical. The four items I purchased at the Nutrition Shoppe to treat Michaiah’s Hand, Foot and Mouth came to a grand total of $63.81. This might sound like a lot, but it is not bad, when you consider:
1.) I can use the items I purchased to treat the entire family and prevent potential spread of infection. You cannot do that with OTC medications or antibiotics.
2.) These herbs will also last a long time, hopefully right into cold season, as all of these are remedies for viral infections. When a cold or sore throat threatens, I will have everything I need stocked in my pantry, saving me probably another $30 on less effective OTC medications for a cold. (Which I don’t like anyways!)
3.) We conserve costs on medication, health care, or insurance in general. Because we save on those things, we can put our funds towards natural and preventative treatments.
4.) In the end, it may have also saved me a trip to the emergency room or the doctor! Using remedies that strengthen the immune system (versus mask the symptoms) can shorten the life of the sickness and prevent advanced infections. Money well-spent.
Every baby will react a little bit differently to this virus. It has been three days and I’m still not certain we are out of the woods just yet. At our house, this virus has manifested itself mainly in the form of fussiness, loss of appetite, interrupted sleep, and fevers (highest during the night), and probably also a sore throat, judging from the way she is acting. We have had a few red bumps around the mouth. From what other moms have told me, this can be a stubborn little virus. If we see more of the rash-like symptoms, I will use coconut oil as a salve for her skin and teething oil (can be purchased at Eco Chic Baby) to soothe the inside of the mouth.
Update: This thing is stubborn! K.K.’s fever lasted over ten days. After about three days, I thought she was better because her temperature and appetite would remain normal during the day . However, as evening fell she would become lethargic and her temperature would go back up, usually spiking in the night. Often, I resorted to a fever-reducer in the middle of the night. After ten long days, she stopped getting fevers and returned to her normal self!
Many childhood sicknesses like Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease can be treated safely and naturally at home. At the end of the day, I have to thank my amazing community of moms, friends and caregivers and this post by Modern Alternative Mama for helping me diagnose and treat my baby without a trip to the doctor!
So, has your child ever contracted a sickness like Hand, Foot and Mouth? If so, what did you do? Or what would you do if it were your child? Do you have any tips for natural home remedies or saving on health care costs?
P.S. In case you didn’t know, I’m not a doctor. Consult a naturopathic physician for professional advice on how to naturally treat Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.