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A friend of mine is expecting her third baby very soon and she just discovered that one of her little ones has hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD). Knowing that I have been learning about herbs for the last several years, she asked what natural (and pregnancy safe!) things she could do to help her son get better and help reduce the risk of her or the baby contracting it. Curious about what I’ve found?
What is Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?
No, it’s not related to the animal disease called “Hoof and Mouth”. It is a virus (most often Coxsackie A) and it’s almost never dangerous. It is, however, highly contagious and very unpleasant. Incubation is three to seven days and is followed by mild fever, sore throat and can include appetite loss and diarrhea. A day or two later, little blisters form in the mouth and a rash develops, usually on the hands and feet, but it can be other places. The rash can be sore, but is not itchy. Symptoms last one to two weeks, but some sources say that an infected person can still spread the virus for a few weeks after they are recovered. There is no medical treatment and since this is a virus, please don’t ask your doctor for antibiotics. They won’t help and they will damage your immune system. Since a person is most contagious during the incubation period (before you even know they are sick!), it is important to treat the entire family. I don’t recommend trying to reduce the fever, since the fever is part of the immune system’s natural response to kill the virus.
One of the things I love about herbs is that there are often many options for treating problems and each herb often has many uses! HFMD is a virus, so antiviral herbs are what we want. Since HFMD almost always affects children, we need herbs that taste good!
These can be warm or cold, depending on what is more soothing for your little one’s sore mouth.
- Lemon Balm: This is sooo delicious! Dried lemon balm has a subtle lemony flavor that isn’t too strong for little ones (not fresh, though! It tastes like grass!). Brew a little and add a bit of raw honey once it’s cooled some. (Don’t use honey for babies under one year.) Buy it here.
- Peppermint: We grow chocolate mint in our herb garden and I think it makes a tea so sweet that you don’t even need honey! Don’t make this too strong, though, or most young children won’t drink it. Buy it here.
- Elderberry: Too much can cause diarrhea, but a few cups a day is delicious and wonderful for fighting viruses. Buy it here.
- Rooibos Tea: This red tea from Africa is naturally sweet and so good that I drink it often, just because I like it! It is antiviral and pairs well with the elderberry tea. Buy it here.
Your kiddos might not have much of an appetite, so broth/stock is a good option for nutrition.Use either chicken or beef broth/stock and add the ingredients below. When reheating broth, use the stove top, not the microwave!
- Garlic: Don’t you just love garlic?! It’s antiviral, antibacterial and it tastes so good! Crush or mash the garlic and let it sit in a bowl for 15 minutes before adding it to the broth. This allows air to activate the best healing properties.
- Thyme: Fresh or dried, thyme is excellent for any virus. Toss some in toward the end of the cooking time. Buy it here.
- Sage: Along with being antiviral, sage helps to reduce inflammation, heal the sores in the mouth and sooth the upset tummy that sometimes comes with HFMD. DO NOT add sage to your own broth if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Buy it here.
- Rosemary: It is antiviral and also antibacterial, which helps to prevent secondary infections in the sores.
Soothing Antiviral Oil
Virgin coconut oil is antiviral, too! It is naturally solid at room temperature, so it can be used as a salve, or you can even put a scoop in the bathtub as a bath oil! For an extra boost, infuse it with some lemon balm and calendula (learn how here!). Apply as often as desired.
Antiviral Hand Soap
To help prevent the virus from spreading, use a liquid hand soap and add 2 or 3 drops of tea tree oil to each bottle. If your kiddos don’t wash their hands well, you might want to temporarily use an all-natural foaming hand soap and tell them to wash their hands twice every time they use the bathroom. My four-year-old thinks the foaming soap is tons of fun, so she does a much better job than with bar or liquid soap.
Antiviral Surface and Air Cleaners
Plain ol’ white vinegar with several drops of tea tree oil will do a fantastic job of killing the virus on surfaces (toilets, doorknobs, light switches, etc.) and the vinegar smell goes away once it’s dry. Adding tea tree oil to a diffuser or in a pot of steaming (not boiling!) water will help kill germs and it’s good for the people who are already sick.
If one of your little ones brings home hand, foot and mouth disease, starting your entire family on these safe antiviral herbs may help to keep the rest of you from catching it and help your kiddos recover more quickly!