By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, or so it seems according to several of my patients' mothers who have resorted to all sorts of stuff to "treat" their children's hand-foot-and-mouth (HFM) disease.
Remember, HFM is a viral infection that most children get in the first several years of life. It may cause all sorts of symptoms, but in a classic case the child develops a maculopapular (flat and/or raised) vesicular rash on the palms, soles and buttocks. In some children, the rash is fairly mild and in others it can look pretty disgusting and uncomfortable; but it has to fade away on its own, with time.
There has been a lot of HFM in our area and much anxiety among parents about this infection fueled by social media identifying who has HFM, where they go to school and how many cases there are. Parents are even posting places to "stay away from." Some of my patients' parents are scouring their children, looking to see if there might be a bump and wondering if it could be HFM; and if so, what do they can do to "stop" it. That would be "nothing" besides good hand washing, as it is a viral infection and you may be exposed to it almost anywhere.
Since coxsackievirus has been around for years, this means that most adults had the virus when they were young. But, several moms and dads whose children have HFM have also shown me a rash on their palms and soles that I presume may be HFM. They are kind of freaked out and may be uncomfortable, too, but this is not life threatening.
Even so, several parents are resorting to Google to get their medical information; and one young mother kindly brought me all of the stuff that she found to treat her son's HFM as well as hers. She was earnest in hoping that this was the "cure," and asked if I knew about all of these remedies.
There was Epsom salts - an "antiviral" - for baths, turmeric and ginger in veggie juice, crushed garlic, which she was mixing with small amounts of orange juice and squirting into her toddlers mouth with a syringe, lavender essential oil and "virgin" coconut oil massages.
I was most impressed that her sweet toddler was eating, drinking and bathing in all of this. Unfortunately, despite her best efforts, it took about two weeks for his rash to totally disappear and she kept him under house arrest for most of that time. He could have gone out long before that, as he was over his acute illness, but she wanted every "mark" to fad She was most chagrined to hear that he might get HFM again. I am not sure that her tricks did any good, except in her mind.
If you do resort to "internet medicine" remember the oath: "First do no harm" and check with your pediatrician about some of the advice you might find online; not everything may be safe.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. "The Kid's Doctor" TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid's Doctor e-book, "Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today's Teen," is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.
This was printed in the February 19, 2017 - March 4, 2017 edition.