What is hand, foot, mouth disease?

Hand, foot, and mouth diseases are acute contagious infections caused by the enterovirus genus, most commonly known as the coxsackievirus. It is widely seen in children below five years of age as the immune system is not entirely developed at this age. The clinical manifestations, i.e., symptoms, mainly involve fever, sore throat, fatigue, painful ulcers, and rashes on the hands, foot, and mouth. In some cases, patients may experience respiratory infections, as well. Enterovirus infections are mainly transmitted through the digestive tract, respiratory tract, and direct contact. In recent years, cases of hand, foot, and mouth diseases have increased significantly. Therefore, the prevention and treatment of such infection at the earliest is of utmost importance. Research suggests that the disease is self-limiting and goes away within two to three weeks. The virus responsible for transmitting hand, foot, and mouth diseases usually affects people with weak immunity. People who do not maintain proper hygiene are also at high risk of the illness. 

From 2012 onwards, Coxsackievirus A6 is globally reported as an emerging pathogen for hand, foot, and mouth diseases. Research suggests that the symptoms of this disease are mild, but a small proportion of children may experience severe complications like meningitis, encephalitis, acute flaccid paralysis, and neurorespiratory syndrome. These enteroviruses spread quickly and are generally contracted through feces, saliva, or mucus. While it can surface year-round, hand, foot, and mouth diseases tend to spread more in the summer. The virus is often contagious before any clear signs of the illness are seen. Some times the virus is spread by people who don't show any symptoms. Hence, it can be impossible to avoid exposure to the virus altogether. As per doctors, it is found that there is no particular cure for the virus, and the symptoms of the infection subside within two weeks of the disease. [1,2,3]

See: Boost your immune system with Ayurveda

Hand, foot, & mouth disease home remedies that work

Home remedies for hand, foot, and mouth diseases

According to experts, the first signs of hand, foot, and mouth disease are rashes, red spots, and blisters on the hands, foot, and mouth. It is often accompanied by blisters inside the mouth, along with a sore throat and a high fever. There are no specific medicines for the virus, but some over-the-counter medications can be taken to alleviate the pain and irritation that comes along with the disease. These over-the-counter medications involve ibuprofen and acetaminophen. These medications help decrease the symptoms of the disease until the immune system of the body defeats the virus. Following are some home remedies for hand, foot, and mouth disease that are suggested that may alleviate the symptoms of the disease.

1. Tender coconut water

Coconut water is proven to cool down the body. It contains numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are suitable for the immune system. It contains lauric acid, which helps the body fight viruses. Children with hand, foot, and mouth disease should consume coconut water as it helps relieve the body from pain as well as keeps the body well hydrated.

2. Oil pulling

It is an old ayurvedic remedy that involves holding any oil like peanut, sesame, or coconut in the mouth for about 5 to 10 minutes and then spit it out. It helps soothe the mouth sores caused by the disease.

3. Cod liver oil

Cod liver oil contains vitamins and minerals which boost the body's immunity to fight off the disease.

4. Echinacea

Echinacea is an herb that belongs to the daisy family and possesses antimicrobial properties. This herb boosts immunity and reduces the symptoms of fever and rashes.

5. Lavender oil

Lavender oil possesses antiviral properties. It also has calming and relaxing properties, which reduce the pain of the disease and help the children sleep better.

6. Lemon essential oil

Lemon oil works as a disinfectant. Applying a few drops to the areas on the infected skin due to the virus can help fight the virus as well as nourish the skin.

7. Licorice root

The licorice root contains antiviral properties. It contains chemical compounds known as terpenoids, which boost immunity. The licorice root extract is naturally sweet and forms a thin layer within the mouth and esophagus, which helps soothe blisters inside the mouth and sore throat.

8. Epsom salt baths

Adding Epsom salt in the bathwater helps in soothing the rashes and blisters on the body caused by the virus's flushing out the toxins. It can be combined with lavender and lemon oil and applied over the rash area, which helps provide relief.

9. Garlic

Garlic possesses strong antimicrobial properties as it contains high levels of sulfur compounds. Garlic boosts immunity and helps the body to fight against the virus.

10. Ginger

Similar to garlic, ginger contains chemicals that have antiviral properties and pain-relieving effects. Ginger can be crushed, and its juice can be consumed along with lemon or honey. 

11. Elderberry

Elderberry is an herb that has antioxidant properties and boosts immunity, which helps the body fight against the virus. It helps the body produce mucus and increases body temperature, making it difficult for the virus to survive in the body. 

12. Astrologist

Astralagus belongs to the legume family. It has been used as traditional medicine and is known for its immune-boosting effects. It helps to stop the virus from multiplying within the body. Topical ointments containing Astralagus can be applied on the rashes and blisters on the skin.

13. Calendula

Calendula is also an herb belonging to the marigold family. It possesses antiviral and antimicrobial properties, which helps decrease inflammation in the body, which is caused due to the virus and boosts healing in the body. 

14. Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains antiviral properties. It can be applied on the rashes and blisters present on the skin and helps to soothe them.

15. Neem leaves

Traditionally neem is used as an antimicrobial agent and has also been used for treating viral infections for hundreds of years. Every house contains a neem plant. Neem oil can be applied over rashes and blisters to reduce them.

16. Gooseberry

Gooseberry, or commonly known as amla, is rich in vitamin C, an essential vitamin for boosting immunity. Amla juice can be consumed to soothe blisters in the mouth, sore throat, and boost immunity.

17. Pomegranate

Pomegranate is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that help the body fight the virus and soothe its symptoms.

18. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a great source of vitamins and minerals.  It also contains a compound known as inulin, which increases the production of white blood cells (WBCs), which help fight the virus in our body.

19. Tulsi

Similar to neem, every household in India traditionally has a tulsi plant. The Tulsi herb contains numerous medicinal properties. Tulsi juice is extremely beneficial for children suffering from hand, foot, and mouth disease.

20. Aloe vera

Aloe vera gel is highly beneficial for rashes and blisters on the skin due to the virus. It helps soothe the pain from the rashes, prevents itching, and promotes skin healing. Consumption of aloe vera juice is also useful as it helps boost immunity. [4,5,6,7,8]

See: Astragalus root or huang qi to boost immunity

Summary

Proper hygiene should be maintained in the first place to avoid viral infection. Standard practices like washing hands and disinfecting common areas in the house help reduce the risk of contracting the virus. Foods and methods mentioned above are commonly available in every household and can be used as a remedy for treating hand, foot, and mouth disease as soon as possible.

See: Ginger Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts

References

1.      Chen XN. SIRS/sepsis theories and their use for guiding diagnosis and treatment of severe viral infection-A discussion based on hand, foot, and mouth disease. Clin Pediatr Emerg Med. 2010;17:87–8

2.      Wang JN, Yao CT, Yeh CN, Huang CC, Wang SM, Liu CC, et al. Critical management in patients with severe enterovirus 71 infections. Pediatr Int. 2006 Jun;48(3):250–6

3.      Aswathyraj S, Arunkumar G, Alidjinou EK, and Hober D. Hand, foot & mouth disease (HFMD): emerging epidemiology & the need for a vaccine strategy. Med Microbiol Immunol 2016; 205: 397-407.

4.      About hand, foot, and mouth disease. (n.d.). Retrieved from cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth/about/index.html

5.      Hand, foot, and mouth disease. (2014, July) kidshealth.org/parent/infections/skin/hfm.html

6.      Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, August 22). Hand-foot-and-mouth disease mayoclinic.com/health/hand-foot-and-mouth-disease/DS00599

7.      https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/20-effective-home-remedies-for-hand-foot-mouth-disease/

8.      https://wellnessmama.com/367957/hand-foot-mouth-disease/

9.     CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth/about/treatment.html

See: Amla Health Benefits & Side Effects

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