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.

What’s THAT?

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

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Update of 10/31/12:  Having trouble getting your sick child or toddler to drink anything?  To avoid dehydration, try small pieces of ice.  (Sonic ice is perfect!)  My friend Audra shared this tip with me.  It works great if you child is old enough to chew or suck on the ice without choking. We tried it out and it worked like a charm when we could not get Michaiah to drink.
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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. DSC 0249 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.

The Conclusion

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.

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  • Jennifer

    Poor girl!! I hope she’s feeling better now and I hope you don’t get it! I have some friends that their child got hand, foot and mouth from daycare and my friend Rory ended up getting it as well. He said it was awful! Sore throat, fever and spots on his hands and feet. Not fun at all.

    • Rachael

      Thank goodness so far I am not having any symptoms…lots of hand washing and herbal teas. And some serious toy sanitizing is about to happen too!

      • sara

        hi my son is a teenager and got this. he is very sore in the mouth. cannot eat anything. it almost 5 days now, any thing i can do to help him

        • fromfaye

          Sara, you can administer everything in this post! You can also do ice chips and smoothies for the sore mouth. Drink lots and lots of water. It can last a long time…and if the fever gets past 103, I would administer some Motrin.

  • amy s

    You should check out the bulk herb store online, and consider signing up for their e newsletter. They offer a wealth of info about herbal treatments and sell tons of helpful books. I’ve learned a lot from them! My daughter took antibiotics once as a 6 month old (had I known more, she wouldn’t have needed them) but I haven’t used them for my kids since. Thanks for this great post, I learned some new things!

    • Rachael

      Great idea…I would love that. I just put two library books on hold about herbs…it is hard to find info about herbs that isn’t totally weird LOL! I would like to grow a few of my own medicinal herbs some day!

  • Jenn Verdery

    I am so sorry that KK is not feeling well! I too had to go to the hospital on christmas eve last year ( justice was still tiny) because she caught that awful stomach bug! This year I am arming my whole family with herbal remedies. What did you do for croup? Justice has never had it but I would like to know what to do if she got it …. we already do probiotics !

    • Rachael

      I learned that for croup the best thing to do is bundle them up and take them into the cold night air! Cold air…my sis had some other remedies I think that involved ice packs…I have to ask her. Alternatively, they said you can also turn up the shower really high and hold them in the steamy bathroom. Of course, the Vicks cool mist humidifier in the bedroom helps too. Croup is very odd…the onset is very sudden and usually only happens at night (for most)…it has a seal-like cough due to vocal cord swelling. It’s just scary, but there is not much the doctor can do. We only had it one night, thank goodness! I like Dr. Sears explanation

  • Abi R.

    How do you feel about homeopathics? I use Boiron and Hyland’s homeopathics at the first sign of cold/flu for us and use activated charcoal for upset stomachs for adults and Nux Vomica for the babies. Adelyn has a probiotic organic yogurt every day but I don’t have Camden on it yet since he is still 99% breastfed. I just ordered the lemon balm and Nature’s Answer elder berry on Amazon…I love the concept of training your child’s immune system to fight disease instead of suppressing it with antibiotics/vaccines. I get very nervous with fevers but you had good info…I will try to resist reaching for the rarely used Tylenol next time!! Hope your sweet little one is 100% better!

    • Rachael

      Actually good question. I don’t know much of anything about homeopathics. My sistet-in-law swears by it though! I DO know Hyland’s teething tablets and cough syrup works wonders though. I’m just not sure exactly how it works or how it’s different form herbal treatments? I will remember the charcoal and Nux Vomica because David and I got a stomach bug right after Michaiah recovered from HFM. Yes…fevers are SOOO nervewracking! It was taking everything in me not to holler DOCTOR!!

  • Rachel @ Grasping for Objectivity

    I needed this three months ago! 7 out of 10 kids in Noah’s Sunday School class got it. And got it BAD.

    I’ll remember this if (God Forbid) we ever get it again!

    • Rachael

      It’s amazing how fast it spreads! Hopefully we don’t ever get it again either! Felt like we’d never be rid of that pesky fever!

  • farmchickisr

    There is one treatment that I know of from numerous other people and it is un pasteurized goat milk and it works like magic, one day of drinking, around 1/2 cup at least and the sores disappear. In order to avoid unwanted bacteria, the milk should be heated til it starts to froth and rise. Do not cook lengthy time, do not boil . You may had cocoa or sugar it doesn’t matter, and it is always successful.

    • frugalfaye

      Wow, thanks! I hope we never get this again, but if we do, I will try it!

  • Momchalant

    I just discovered this morning that my little one has hand, foot, and mouth. So glad I found your blog. I’m definitely getting the Garden of Life probiotics just to keep for future sicknesses/viruses.

  • hazel

    Thank you for the cures, my gran son came home from pre school, crying out for pains in his mouth, we first assumed he was teething, but as the pain increased we took him to his doctor only to be told that he had this virus. We were also told that there is no medical cure. Hearing him cry out during the nights bleeds my heart, hence, I came on this site where I know I would attain good advice. I will certainly stock up on all the herbal treatments advertised. Once again thank you.

    • frugalfaye

      I hope he feels better soon!

  • mel

    hi, this is great. my six year old seems to have contracted it and i work for an herbal clinic and pick the things up there i do not have already! we have a tea w elder flower, lemon balm and peppermint and a great elderberry syrup. thank you!

  • Christel

    My son has this, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen. We are on day 6 but the blisters on his hand are huge! They almost look like burn blisters. Every other symptom is gone, but these darn water blisters won’t go away. I’m at a loss of what to do…..any suggestions?

  • Dingdangdoo

    Please don’t use the term ‘spaz attack’…

    • Doris Wheat

      Why? She’s giving useful information. She can use whatever words she wishes too! Grow up and get over yourself.

  • toni

    I just came from the doc, my 3 year old has a not so bad case, but she did say if it got worse that sometimes they will prescribe an anti viral medication in extreme cases. Also, while I was pregnant is was recommended that I didn’t take elderberry, I’m a big believer in it but if you are pregnant I would look into that a bit more.

  • aleyjha

    i wish i had seen this earlier. my 3 yr old had HFMD last week and now MY 25 yr old husband has it and it is awful! my daughter had the sores on her hands and feet and a few blisters in her mouth but my husband has it on his hands, arms, feet, mouth nose and all in his mouth. i have been giving them honey three times a day, rubbing their skin in apple cider vinegar, giving my husband a prenatal vitamin twice a day along with garlic capsules 3 times a day and cod liver oil capsules. they also are taking fish oil, vitamin d3 and milk thistle capsules. i have been giving them broth with sage, thyme, rosemary and lots of garlic (all 4 are anti-viral). they have been drinking green tea as well. my daughter was over it in 3 days! my husband is now on day 3 and it looks like it is starting to go away. he has been taking.cloraseptic spray for his mouth sores and throat and it has done wonders! i have been taking all the vitamins as well (prenatal, vitamin d3, garlic, fish oil, flax seed oil, cod liver oil, coconut oil capsules and milk thistle) and thankfully have had no symptoms of getting!!

  • grozamom

    I hate to even say this but we had a horrible case of it and don’t be alarmed if finger and/or toenails fall off. My son had blisters on his toes and fingers several times and the nails fell of twice over a month period. The doctor said we had the worst case she has seen but just don’t freak out!

  • kay

    All 4 of my kids have it very bad but my youngest has it worst she has not slept since she got it I’m losing my mind

    • fromfaye

      Hang in there mama! I know what it’s like to be going on no sleep, up at 3 am rocking a baby and consulting Dr. Google. Praying your baby gets better very soon!

  • Cynthia

    My son is a trooper, he is trying to fight thus, he’s 1yr10. What I’d really love to know is how or what can I get him for the itchyness. he’s got it bad. He’s not potty trained enough so we have to squat over the toilet. Because the rash is in the butt area. It’s so bads please help me stop his itchy pain.

  • tamaracrank_14

    My son is 9 months old and constantly fussy and has bad mouth sores cause of the hand foot mouth disease. I am at my wits end with this. Won’t eat or drink or sleep more than 10 minutes at a time even at night

  • Jesse

    grab up oregano oil it will kill all of this quick take it by mouth and put on sores.

    • fromfaye

      Great information! Thank you! I use oregano oil on the feet for fevers and to increase immunity. Did not know you could use it for the mouth sores.

      • Jesse

        you sure can I use it with my tooth brush it kills almost every virus known to man it is powerful stuff. be careful tho 3 drops can make your liver over work so take as needed also oregano oil can deplete your body or iron so make sure you dont over use it :)

        • fromfaye

          Just for my readers, in general, I would caution against any internal use of essential oil, especially oregano! It is a very spicy oil. Internal use (like on your toothbrush) should always be under the guidance of a professional! Check and make sure it is okay to use topically on little ones. I use the site Learning About EO’s for my safety information.

    • vicky

      Will this work on the rash as well?

      • Jesse

        yes oregano oil will kill most if not all viruses it comes in contact with i put it on my tooth brush everynight

  • Chelsey

    You mentioned peppermint tea. My son is 10 months old would it be safe enough to put a drop of peppermint essential oil in his oatmeal? He doesn’t drink out of a sippy or bottle since I nurse.

    • fromfaye

      Hey Chelsey, I know it can be so hard to figure out how to administer these things to such a little on! If you are nursing, that is better than any herb or medicine you could give your little one! Nurse as often as possible! As far as ingesting essential oils, I would confidently say a definite no. First, after much research, I would never recommend ingesting unless you are in extenuating circumstances under the guidance of a clinical aromatherapist. The potency of one drop of essential oil is as much as 28 cups of peppermint tea! Peppermint has many good properties, but it also contains phytochemicals that can burn the skin or even damage internal organs. You are at a huge advantage with nursing, so nurse and nurse! Remember that anything you get, he gets through you milk!

  • ali_cat

    My 9 year old has this at the moment. Monday, his hands had blisters. Tuesday, his feet. Wednesday, his legs. This morning, his arms and stomach. I’m afraid tomorrow they will be in his mouth. We are trying colloidal silver. I will update to let you know how/if it works. He hasn’t ran any fever, though. Odd…..

    • ali_cat

      The colloidal silver kept the blisters from spreading any further! No mouth sores!!! There is another product made by Nature’s Sunshine that is for viral immunity. It’s a capsule called VS-C. Either of these would help with HFMD, but no need to take both together. I hope this helps someone!

      • Ali

        Did you have him drink the colloidal silver or did you put it on the blisters?

  • Joy Baker

    I am 81 years old and just got hand foot and mouth disease. What can I do for it?

    • fromfaye

      Hey Joy, I just saw this! You can do all of the things listed in the post. I might also find someone who knows about essential oils and see if they can prescribe anything. I know it’s not “natural” per se, but if your fever spikes, I would take Motrin and drink loads o fwater to avoid a hospital visit. Those fevers can be rough. I think that hand foot and mouth symptoms could be worse in adults, right?

      • Mike1813

        I’m not sure, but my two kids had it and the baby gave it to me. I’m 32 and It’s been terrible. I’m on day 5 and I still have very painful blisters on my hands, feet, and mouth. I can’t take off from work and I use my hands and feet all day. The pain is torture. Is there anything I can put on my hands and feet to numb the pain? I’ve used tricalm, but it didn’t work. I hope this clears up soon. Thanks

  • Davida

    Oregano oil mixed with coconut oil on the soles of the feet. Put socks on at night. This helped my daughter big time and helped prevent her from getting HFM disease as bad as the other children in her school. Also, I second the probiotics.

  • Bobbie

    Hey. My 15 month old daughter is on I believe day 3 of HFMD. She has gotten over the fever but now has horribly blisters all over the bottom of her mouth/chin. What can I do to help the sores go away and stop any more coming up.

  • Dave

    How do you say your son’s name?

    • fromfaye

      My daughter’s name (ha’s a unisex name) is pronounced Ma-kay-ah.

  • dv

    For hoof and mouth disease you may drink goat milk straight from the milking after heating it til it starts to froth and rise.. do not boil it or it won’t help. After it starts frothing, you turn it off, you may add sugar, honey cocoa and give to the afflicted person, results are almost immediate! Well known treatment in Israel.

    • fromfaye

      Woopsy, I think that’s the wrong illness!

      • dv

        I beg to differ. I have a farm. People are sent to me all the time by doctors for this treatment and it works. It’s well known in middle eastern countries. The only difference is that at one time it was suggested to squirt straight from the goat apparently due to hygiene, but now we are aware that it must be heated after the milking til it starts to froth and it is a proven treatment.

        • fromfaye

          If I’m correct, according to your original comment, you are talking about Hoof and Mouth Disease (aka Foot and Mouth Disease), which affects clove foot farm animals and is very rarely transferred to humans. It is a different virus, though it has similar symptoms to HFMD.

          Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is the one this post is about. It is a childhood disease caused by the coxsackie virus.

          Hope that helps!

  • karen

    When do the blister go away??? From the feet and mouth.

  • Milena Kozmina

    Ughh im 13 and i got the disease from my niece and nephew, anyone’s baby has it? It’s so bad i swear to god! Throat hurts, headache, fever the blisters on my feet don’t srsl let me walk, it is so annoying! Just look after your babies and where they play/with who cuz even if i have the disease it won’t last for too long but i had angina before and my immunity was quite bad last 2-3 months so angina just joined in with HMF and it’s so terrible u can’t imagine!

  • Veronica

    I am 24 and currently have hand-foot-mouth disease. Although really rare in adults, it can occur. It’s really not fun! I look forward trying your tips