Natural Remedies for Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

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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.

Image of a little boy with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Natural Remedies

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! Hand, foot and mouth disease is a virus, so antiviral herbs are what we want. Since hand, foot and mouth disease almost always affects children, we need herbs that taste good!

Antiviral Teas

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.

Antiviral Broth

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!

If you’re looking for more home remedies and practical suggestions on how to keep your children healthy, naturally, get A Practical Guide to Children’s Health.  With over 300 primary sources, it’s a well-researched guide to vaccines, illnesses, allergies, sleep, feeding, and lots more.  Get the PDF or the paperback.

Have any of your children had hand, foot and mouth disease? Did you use any natural remedies for comfort or to prevent spreading it?


  1. nikki says

    Hello! My children got hand foot and mouth from school. I used the coconut oil on their spots on their hands and feet and the next morning they were lighter red and less itchy. I’m making the broth now. Thank you for posting these! They’ve been a life saver!

  2. Joy says

    I think I have HFM, but the information on adults with HFM is very little, so I don’t know if it really is HFM. My children had HFM a few months ago and got over it really fast. Last week I was around my nieces who had it and a few days later I got a really bad sore throat and a bad sore in my mouth. I didn’t think it was anything then 2 days later I woke up extremely itchy. My entire body itches, but my hands and feet are the things that itch the most. And they get severely itchy when I am close to heat or if I get warm. Which makes cooking or even going outside with my kids very painful. I have to keep my house cold and wear light clothes, I also have to sleep with ice packs on my feet so they don’t itch all night and keep me awake.
    I haven’t had any blisters until yesterday ( day 4 of the itching ) I found 2 blisters on my feet. I have some blister like sores on my face, my scalp, knee, hips and buttocks.
    I’m just wondering if anyone else has felt completely itchy all over? Or if this is just something else that just so happens to be somewhat like HFM. I’m trying to not go insane over here.

    • Petra says

      My 2yr old has hmf and his first night, when the rash started to develop, his hands and feet were very itchy and the rash worsened very quickly. I took him to a&e where they gave him some antihistamine because it looked like he had 2 separate rashes, his hands and feet had a rash that looked like alot of pin pricks but outside the nappy lines were more raised, red and blotchy. The latter has got alot worse and he has varying degrees of rash nearly over his whole body. No one yet has told me if I can treat the worst, more blistery, parts of the rash that are painful for my little man. Can someone please help?

    • Misty says

      Joy, I am 38 year’s old and have been to the doctor with HFM. This is my third time having it. I don’t know why I keep getting it. I do have children but they are 18 and 15. I am a big hand washer. (Diagnosed OCD) I am in day two of HFM and haven’t gotten much sleep. The doctor told me that it was uncommon for adults to get it and that I more than likely will never get it again. I am hoping this will be my last time ever having it. I have never gotten it anywhere other than my feet, hands and mouth. I hope you’re doing much better now and that you never get this hateful virus again.
      P.S. This time I have been nauseated and had a headache. I didn’t the first two times.

  3. Rachel says

    My 2yo son picked HFM up last week, had a fever, a few bumps here and there, and was over it. Then -I- got it. Bad. No fever or mouth ulcers, but bumps everywhere. Then I woke up to my hands covered in a rash of blisters, making it hard to do anything from the pain. Today more blisters are appearing on the other side of my hands, and my feet. This is supposed to last a WEEK? Ugh I can hardly function. :(


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