When I first started in practice 20 years ago I had never heard of hand, foot and mouth. I had a three year old son myself at the time who went to child care and it was never a problem at any of the centres he attended.
I probably came across a few cases about 5 or 6 years ago, but not many. Today, however, it’s quite a major problem and sometimes even adults get it.
The first few cases I came across were reasonably mild for an unpleasant viral illness – nothing too dramatic and manageable with homeopathics. More recently some of the cases I have come across have been quite severe but still manageable with homeopathics. There is little conventional medicine has to offer for this viral illness apart from the traditional recommendations for fever.
The NHS website (1) in the UK says that hand, foot and mouth is a viral infection that can affect young children. HFM is caused by a group of viruses known as enteroviruses. The most common types of viruses that can cause the condition are coxsackievirus A16, A6 or A10 and enterovirus 71.
Because of the way the infection is spread, outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease can occur in places where groups of children need to have their nappies changed or go to the toilet, such as childcare centres.
A person with hand, foot and mouth is highly contagious until about a week after the symptoms begin. The infection can be spread if:
- contaminated droplets are transferred from an infected person – for example, if an infected person coughs or sneezes, the droplets can be inhaled by another person or can contaminate surfaces, leading to the spread of infection
- fecal matter (stool) is transferred from an infected person – for example, if an infected person doesn’t wash their hands properly after going to the toilet and then contaminates food or surfaces (the viruses can live for up to four weeks in a person’s stools)
- you come into contact with the fluids of an infected person’s blisters or saliva
It is a self-limiting condition, which means it will get better on its own without treatment. The symptoms will usually pass within seven days.
It doesn’t usually pose a serious threat to a child’s health, but it can be be an unpleasant condition, particularly if it affects younger children.
Typical symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease include:
- cold-like symptoms, such as loss of appetite, cough and a moderately high temperature of around 38-39°C
- a non-itchy red rash, made up of spots or small fluid-filled sacs (vesicles), which usually develops on the hands and feet, but may also occur on the knees, elbows, groin and buttocks; sometimes the rash can develop into painful blisters
- painful mouth ulcers
Hand, foot and mouth disease is not the same as foot and mouth disease, which affects cattle, sheep and pigs. The two infections are unrelated, and you cannot catch hand, foot and mouth disease from animals.
Homeopathy for Hand Foot & Mouth
I’ve treated quite a few cases of HFM with first aid remedies with good success, but it was when a patient told me about the information available on the internet that I thought I should research a bit more. Basically there were about 4 remedies recommended and while some seemed appropriate, long experience told me there had to be a few others. I’ve put my thinking cap on and come up with a slightly more comprehensive list.
First step is going to be to manage the fever if present. For more information see theFevers article on the website.
Below is the list of remedies for other symptoms of HFM. This will form part of a list of remedies for skin complaints coming out in a future newsletter, which will then be loaded to the website:
Ant Tart – Tongue coated thick white as if painted, with pimples around the mouth, or tongue may be mapped, dry, parched with whitish coating in the centre only. Profuse, offensive saliva. Clingy, wants to be carried but does not want to be touched or looked at. No thirst. May be accompanied by a rattly chest. Worse from cold.
Ant Crud – Yellowish or brown, crusty, scabby, eruptions like dried honey around mouth. Ulcers on tongue. Mapped tongue or a thick, milky white or yellow coating on the rear third of the tongue with clean sides. Fever with profuse offensive perspiration; thirsty with fever. Useful if Pulsatilla is indicated but fails to act. Worse warm room, better in the open air.
Borax – Mouth hot and tender with white ulcers on the tongue which may bleed easily when eating or touched. The ulcers appear rapidly, with profuse salivation. Wants cold drinks and cold food during fever. Sore mouth prevents infants from nursing. Fear of downward motion and easily startled, worse when sick. Very sensitive to sudden noises.
Calc Carb – prone to mouth ulcers or sores in the mouth. Child puts fingers in the mouth, froths at the mouth. Sore mouth makes it difficult for infants to nurse, worse for cold water. Mapped and indented tongue with white coating. Swollen gums which bleed easily. Grinding teeth during sleep. Perspiration of head at night, with sour odour. Swollen glands, enlarged tonsils. Desire for eggs, indigestible things. Lactose intolerance with rumbling. Fever will often respond to Belladonna, but requires a deeper acting remedy for symptoms that follow.
Cantharis – Tongue is covered with small blisters and is described as “deeply furred” with red edges. Tongue is swollen with red edges and may tremble. Mouth, pharynx and throat burn and may appear ulcerated, with great difficulty swallowing liquids. Saliva is sweet. May be very cold during fever, with cold perspiration. Better for warmth and rest. Worse for touch.
Merc Sol – Sores can be very severe and there may be copious dribbling with offensive breath. There may be pus on the tonsils or on the gums, inside cheeks or on the tongue. The patient is very sensitive to hot and cold and may be thirsty. If there is fever, the sweat may be profuse, offensive and oily in texture. Pain may be worse at night.
Natrum Mur – classic remedy for cold sores and may be indicated if blisters are on the lips rather than in the mouth. Dry mouth with increased thirst. Sore mouths of infants causing difficulty and pain on nursing. Tongue mapped or coated white with red patches. Fever with unquenchable thirst. Increased salivation. Fever with dry cough, wants to be uncovered. Salty profuse perspiration.
Nitric Acid – Ulcers on the soft palate with sharp pain. Gums swollen and sore and may bleed. Margin of mouth covered with sores and blisters. Offensive breath. Patient may vomit or suffer nausea. Tongue is usually clean and red with a furrow down the centre or the tongue may be mapped. Even soft food is painful to eat. Tonsils may be red, swollen, uneven with small ulcers. Worse for touch, being jarred, motion, cold air. Better in the car.
Use the remedies only as directed and as always if your home prescribing is not proving effective contact your health care provider or homeopath.
Lockie A. The Family Guide to Homeopath. Hamish Hamilton Ltd 1989
Murphy R. Nature’s Materia Media Third Edition. Lotus Health Institute 2006
Master FJ. Clinical Observations of Children’s Remedies. Lutra 2006
Melanie Creedy is a UK trained and Australian Registered Homeopath (AROH). She is currently Vice President and Professional Development Coordinator of the Australian Homoeopathic Association. Melanie has used homeopathy for 30 years and has been in practice since 1998. For many years she ran The Children’s Ear Clinic in Western Australian, but since her tree change to Tasmania, has a special interest in women’s and children’s health generally and helping individuals manage their journey on the spiritual path with homeopathy and her range of essences. Melanie has developed her own methods of dealing with complex cases over the years and offers distance consultations via phone and skype to allow people Australia-wide to access her services. You can find out more about Melanie or contact her at www.elementsofhealth.com.au.
Homeopathy is a traditional medicine. It may be used in conjunction with other medicines. For any ongoing chronic condition, it is important to be assessed or examined by your healthcare professional or specialist. Always seek medical advice in emergencies. The information provided in this blog does not constitute medical advice but is for information only. If in doubt as to the appropriateness of a suggestion or treatment seek advice from your homeopath.