How to Survive Hand, Foot and Mouth | Tips from a Mildly Experienced Mom

So you’ve had a kid diagnosed with Hand, Foot and Mouth… and you’re freaking out a little bit. Everyone is saying IT’S AWFUL.

Well… IT IS SO AWFUL. Those little blisters feel like tiny needles are stabbing into your fingers. The sore throat is worse than strep. My fever left me dehydrated with a pounding headache too. So here’s a survival guide for your next few days.

Go to the store right now.

Here’s your shopping list: ibuprofen/Tylenol, Benadryl or Claritin/Zyrtec (for itching) based on your kiddos age, popsicles, more popsicles, gatorade or juice or pedialite, the big bag of ice, raw oats, chicken noodle soup and Lunchables. Your infected kid is basically going to LIVE on liquids and cold ones at that. And guess what no sick kid ever turns down? Those Lunchables you ALWAYS say no too in the grocery store. Because they’re practically garbage. But guess what… this is about survival now. And you can eat all the garbage you want as long as you eat something, kid. HA. Also those garbage $1 lunches have like 13 grams of protein! Astounding!

Stop by the World of Vitamins or your EO dealer.

If you aren’t all about the OTC meds, here’s your back up plan. Use some popsicle forms and drop some Elderberry syrup and juice into them for immune boosting, sore throat relieving, fluids.

Throw those oats into the bathtub (a cup or more) with ten drops of lavender to help soothe the itching sores. Am I taking you back to your chicken pox childhood?

Frankincense and lemon in your carrier oil can help soothe inflamed skin by reducing redness, swelling and itching. It can help promote the speedy healing of scratched open sores as well. Never add oils directly onto an open sore. But rolling onto unaffected areas (likely around lymph nodes) can help bring non-medicated relief to your child. I personally used some On Guard while my kids were in the thick of it and while I still caught HFM (yay for being immunodeficient!) my spots were MINIMAL (I had maybe seven total!!).

Put on your empathy hat!

Ya’ll. I have a 4 year old, two year old and 10 month old. My girls were basically un-phased by their sore throats. My two year old definitely scratched, but did not whine and cry. My baby… you’d think there was nothing wrong beyond her plague like rash! My four year old… He about drove me to opening a bottle of wine. He moaned and groaned and cried and screamed and moaned some more. He begged for more ibuprofen. BEGGED. He had 20 popsicles in one day. He barely slept for two days. We did baths in the middle of the night to calm the itching and pain down. I only had seven blisters… but he isn’t kidding around. THESE THINGS HURT! He had dozens on his hands and feet. I thought he was being a bit dramatic… but guys, if your little is making a big deal about it, I assure you, it might just hurt that much. It felt like tiny needles were being stabbed into my fingers. I thought I had a splinter in my foot! Nope, just good ole HFM.

What’s for dinner?

Sick kids love salty foods. While they aren’t the best for staying hydrated, they are great for sore throats. Adults with HFM will tell you that was the worst sore throat they can ever remember. I here some kids don’t have the pain symptoms as much as adults, but it’s clear my four year old STRUGGLED with this much more than my baby did. So plan on the chicken noodle. Gargling salt water is an old trick to help with a sore throat. Salt water washes on wounds and piercings are known to help with infection process. Get that chicken broth in your kiddo! Maybe you’re ultra cool and totally have the time for straight up home made bone broth. Cool… bring us some! Haha. Otherwise it’s canned chicken and noodle for dinner. And popsicles. And some more popsicles. For breakfast. For snack. For bath time. 20 a day? Sure! Soup with a side of ‘sicle? Why not! Get those fluids in!

When can you venture out into the world again?

So you’re going to find some pretty conflicting evidence here. Here’s the low down from my conversations with multiple pediatricians and my own PCP.

  1. Incubation period for HFM is 3 to 6 days BEFORE SYMPTOMS START. That means your child is most contagious before you even know she is sick.

  2. All illnesses are contagious when fever is present. So wait AT LEAST 24 hours after fever breaks to go back out.

  3. HFM is spread through droplets (like sneezing or mutual licking of toys and grocery carts) during the contagion period. However, if your child has open sores from scratching, any time your kiddo scratches open a sore then handles a toy… that another kid is putting in their mouth… welp. The spread of HFM continues. So as long as your child has a SPREADING rash/sores (or new spots coming up), stay at home. This TYPICALLY is going to be 2-3 days after they start popping up. Once they start scabbing over, as long as they are not weepy (think oozing pus or blood), you’re out of the danger zone of sharing with friends and family.

  4. Excepttttt diaper changes. Some strains of HFM are from enterovirus - or the stomach bug. This means the virus is hanging out in your child’s digestive tract… which means it EXISTS that way too. WASH YOUR HANDS after every diaper change for the next few weeks since HFM through poo can hang around for much, much longer. Cloth diaper? Yeah, me too. Better be on top of washing those poo ones or plan on sposies for 2-3 weeks.

Sanitize your stuff! But the right way!

There’s two things I’m sanitizing against in my life: HFM and true influenza! Here’s HOW TO SANITIZE CORRECTLY!!!!

  1. Read the label on your chemicals.

  2. Follow the directions.

That’s it. Truly. Those directions say to keep surfaces WET for 5-10 minutes depending on if you are using Clorox/bleach products or Lysol. I just pick up a container of bleach and mix my own 1:10 part bleach:water solution so I can throw toys in the sink and soak. Then rinse (ALWAYS RINSE YOUR CHEMICALS OFF SURFACES!) and let dry. Small toys can also be tossed in the dish washer. It is SO IMPORTANT that you respect the set times on chemical cleaners or you will not kill anything and just Darwin-ize your germs, creating super germs! Non-chemical cleaning options like Norwex enviro cloths are STILL a great option here, just be sure to wash your cloths thoroughly and let dry for the full 24 hours before using again! :D

When mom gets sick too…

Firstly, I’ve been there. It’s a nightmare. Secondly, be thankful you picked up the Lunchables. Your kids can have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next day while you break that fever. Secondly, just put up the air mattress for the kids on the living room floor and tell them it’s a Harry Potter movie marathon (or movies of choice) and the rest of the floors in the house are lava. Also mom is lava, don’t touch me. Also the external doors are lava, don’t open them. Also you can eat all the lunchables and popsicles you want, kids. I don’t care. Eat ten of them. Pass the ibuprofen and ice water. The fever is short lived, but it’s brutal! You WILL survive. Keep your fluids up, mama!

That’s all I’ve got mamas. I empathy hat is on for your families. It is NOT AN ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE. IN fact, the school just called because Clark is complaining of itching and they asked if they can throw some calamine lotion on him. Suuuure. But he’s going to be really mad when he’s covered in pink. So I guess it’s oatmeal bath when he comes home from school today. Yipee.

P.S. If you’re breastfeeding, do not stop breastfeeding your baby. If you are sick, do not stop breastfeeding. If you baby is sick, do not stop breastfeeding. If you second oldest is sick and you’re afraid you might pass HFM from caring for him to your baby…. DO NOT STOP BREASTFEEDING. Just don’t. Science says keep nursing. Keep going mamas. It’s almost flu season and we’ll all wish it was HFM again.