Hand, foot, and mouth disease is one of those illnesses most of us parents and caregivers dread. Characterized by painful sores covering the (yep, you already guessed it) hands, feet, and mouth, children with this viral illness can get extremely uncomfortable. Not to mention, it is highly contagious.
Because it is considered a self-limiting virus, there are no effective medical treatments such as prescriptions aside from providing comfort and pain relief to your child. Here are some hand, foot, and mouth disease natural remedies you can try at home that should help make your child feel more comfortable as the virus runs its course.
Natural Remedies to Treat Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
One of the biggest concerns with hand, foot, and mouth disease is that children with painful sores in their mouths will become dehydrated. Anything that aggravates their mouth will make them resistant to putting anything in or around their mouth. Plain water is one of the best things you can do for your child, and giving it to them at their preferred temperature is best. Most children will appreciate the cooling effects of ice water, but some will respond well to warm teas and even watered-down juices. Bear in mind citrus juices like orange juice will likely irritate the sores.
2. Sucking on frozen foods
One of the most soothing things you will do for your child’s sore mouth is to have different iced foods they can suck on. Most children love popsicles, but they are often loaded with sugar. And because their appetite will likely be lower than usual, it helps to get nutrition in when you can. Therefore, you can offer frozen whole fruits like watermelon slices and strawberries or freeze yogurt in an ice tray to give them a little extra nourishment while soothing their mouth. When in a pinch, don’t hesitate to provide them with ice cubes crushed to the appropriate size for their age.
3. Colloidal oatmeal baths
A good oatmeal bath is sometimes just the ticket for soothing irritated skin. Oatmeal baths are popular natural remedies for skin rashes like chickenpox and eczema. They decrease inflammation and can take away irritation and itching. Certain oatmeal bath products are ready-to-use, or you can put in the work ahead of time to grind oatmeal into a powder so it can be dissolved in the tub and doesn’t clog the drain. Whatever way you choose to go, a warm bath is an excellent way to help young children relax and soothe irritated skin.
4. Try coconut oil
You will likely run across using coconut oil when looking for natural remedies for hand, foot, and mouth disease. Coconut oil is so popular because it is highly nourishing and can act as an antiseptic. You can apply it on external sores, such as those on the hands and feet.
Some people also “swish” coconut oil in their mouths to help soothe sores. This technique, called oil pulling, is more complex for younger children but could be an option for older children and adults who contract the virus. Coconut oil has been found to have the same antimicrobial properties as chlorhexidine, a solution used to cleanse the skin (including the mouth) of bacteria.
5. Cooling clothes for fever
Fever often accompanies hand, foot, and mouth disease, especially at the beginning of the illness. And while it is our inclination to treat fevers, research shows that allowing fevers to run their course can help decrease the amount of time we are sick. Indeed, fever is one of the immune system’s defenses to rid the body of infection and illness.
However, fevers often make children uncomfortable, so it is difficult for parents and caregivers to know when to treat a child’s fever. Your child’s pediatrician should offer guidelines on when you should notify them about fevers and when they recommend you treat the fever with medication like acetaminophen.
If you are trying to keep your child comfortable while letting the fever run its course, cover their skin with light, soft clothing to keep the immediate chill away from their skin and give them a cool cloth on their forehead or the back of their neck. Sometimes adding a drop of essential oil to the cloth, such as lavender or eucalyptus, can be soothing. You can also place the clothes in the freezer for a few minutes to get them really chilled.
6. Healthy foods
Good nourishment is vital for healing the body. And while it can be challenging to get children to eat when they don’t feel well, there are ways to get healthy foods into their systems. For example, smoothies can conceal a lot of vitamin-packed foods such as spinach, so those are a great option for getting your child a lot of nutrients while enjoying something cool and tasty in their mouth. Soft foods with protein, such as yogurt, chicken soups, and cottage cheese, are also options for nourishing their bodies.
If your child is struggling to tolerate smoothies, give broth a try. You can try warm bone, chicken, or vegetable broth as a way to get some nutrition in them.
When to Opt for Other Treatment Options
For hand, foot, and mouth disease, natural remedies are fantastic. But there are times when you need to up the ante with your treatment options. Other treatment options include using acetaminophen to treat a fever or decrease pain and talking to your doctor about using medicated lollipops to help soothe mouth sores.
Most hand, foot, and mouth cases should resolve in about a week. However, if your child continues to have symptoms after ten days, it is important to consult their pediatrician. Also, the following signs warrant medical attention from your child’s provider per the CDC:
- Your child is not drinking enough to stay hydrated
- Your child’s immune system is weak or compromised
- Their symptoms are severe
- Your child is young, especially those that are six months and younger
It’s never fun to see your sweet baby uncomfortable and feeling unwell. Letting a virus run its course, treating the painful symptoms with natural remedies, and seeking medical guidance when necessary is all a parent can do with some illnesses, including this one. Hopefully, these natural remedies will help your little one feel better faster.