With so many cases of Hand, Foot & Mouth (HFMD) Disease causing a stir in my home community I’m compelled to write about this common infection – namely to let folks know that it is not as dreadful as it’s name.
First, this illness is not related to Foot & Mouth Disease (aka Hoof & Mouth Disease) found in cattle, sheep, and swine. FHMD disease cannot transfer to pets or animals. In fact, HFMD is actually very common in small children under the age of five. It is considered mostly harmless, with complications leading to serious illness extremely rare. The Centre for Disease Control has some useful information about HFMD here. There is no conventional medical treatment for this virus beyond Advil to reduce fever and ease discomfort.
However, there are several herbal and homeopathic remedies that have been in use for generations to successfully treat this condition.
HFMD is usually caused by the Coxsackievirus, a virus that belongs to the group of enterovirus — a class of viruses so common that they rank just second to the common cold viruses in causing many acute infections in adults and children. Children usually only get this illness once, therefore most adults have acquired natural immunity to this disease from childhood and are rarely affected in adulthood.
Just like the common cold, we transmit these viruses via respiratory secretions (saliva, nasal mucous, sputum) or stool of an infected person; or of course sharing contaminated objects (utensils, the telephone, door knobs). The immune system is capable of fighting this illness on its own, building life-long immunity to the virus.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
At first, the symptoms may resemble the flu – fever, poor appetite, malaise, and a sore throat may be experienced. Soon (perhaps a day or two later) the individual may complain of pains in the mouth and develop blisters. A skin rash likely appears, usually on the hands or feet; though in some cases knees, buttocks, elbows or genitals. Rarely are all of the above symptoms found in one person, although it can happen.
Below are some time-tested remedies (plus some common sense) to have on hand that are known to treat Hand, Food & Mouth Disease:
HYDRATION – Dehydration is the primary medical risk for small children who are fighting a fever. Remember, a fever is present to burn off the virus. It’s a good thing! Keep the children comfortable, well-hydrated, free from drafts so their bodies can efficiently do what they need to do to heal itself. Water is the preferred choice for hydration, however, I also love warm herbal teas. Herbs deliver rich minerals and other immune supporting properties while at the same time provide necessary fluid to the body.
Here are a list of herbs that are known anti-virals (HFMD is a virus) plus rich in minerals and support the immune system (not to mention they taste good!):
– Lemon Balm
– St. John’s Wort
– Bee propolis
Check your local health food store and see if they have a herbal tincture that has some or many of these ingredients. Tinctures are a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to consume herbs. Or better yet, contact your village herbalist and have them make you (or your child) a custom blend.
You can also apply the tincture externally to the rash that commonly appears with this virus.
I would also source some or many of these ingredients as loose dried herbs to prepare as a strong tea. Teas are another easy way to deliver herbs. Add some honey for flavour and also to soothe a cough or sore throat.
You do not need to combine all of these together (if you can, that’s great). Just choose one, two or more of the above and prepare as a strong tea. To do so, pour one cup of just boiled water over one heaping teaspoon of herb — then steep covered with a lid — for a minimum of 20 minutes. Drink as much as you (or your child) like. These are safe herbs that can be consumed freely.
The painful mouth ulcers can be soothed by tincture of Myrrh and or tincture of Calendula.
It is important to nourish the body while fighting infection to provide a healing environment for the individual to heal quickly.
– Serve soups and stews rich in immune-building foods such as onions, garlic, leeks, ginger, kale, cabbage, broccoli
– Prepare broths from miso, burdock root, astragalus root, celery root, garlic, seaweed
– Remove immune comprimising foods such as sugar (including pure juice), from the diet. .
And of course, rest. Enough can’t be said about the importance of convalescence; while sleeping and resting quietly the body is working hard to recover from illness. So remember, with the proper support of herbs, nourishing organic foods, quiet and deep rest, the wisdom of the body will do what it is designed to do: recover speedily without complications and develop a stronger and more resilient immune system after the exercise of fighting off an acute infection. Truly our bodies are amazing!