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Before I tell you this story I’m going to preface it by saying that I am not giving you medical advice. I’m not a doctor by any means; I do, however, have experience with Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and felt like I should share what I have learned from my experiences with my own children. If you have any medical concerns please contact your family physician immediately. Now that that’s out of the way…I was going away for a weekend with friends back in 2010. I left my son, Brennan, and hubby, Ben, at home and all was well when I left. The next morning I received a call from Ben; Brennan was sick, he had a temperature of 103°F and wasn’t interested in eating. Later in the day, he started developing sores in his mouth and by the end of the weekend, there were two or three on his little hands. I immediately assumed it was Hand Food and Mouth Disease until I was describing his symptoms to my father, who also happens to be a dentist. “I think it sounds like the initial Herpes simplex virus-1 outbreak,” he commented. What the wha? You know what, he was right.

3 Ways to tell if your child has Hand Foot Mouth Disease or Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (aka cold sores)

  1. There are open sores in the mouth, however, the rash that commonly occurs in HFMD is nowhere to be seen. Sure there may be a sore or two on the fingers and some sores outside on the lips from chewing on fingers, but unlike HFMD, that first outbreak of cold sores is relegated definitively to the inside of the mouth, not the feet, hands, etc.
  2. Cold sores come back over and over and over again. This symptom isn’t really going to help your little one in the present time, it’ll confirm your suspicion if you had one that your child didn’t have HFMD. My son typically gets a cold sore during seasonal changes particularly from winter to summer because, let’s be honest, in Minnesota the seasons go from winter, two weeks of spring and then we have summer weather.
  3. Is your child able and willing to eat? All three of my children have had the initial herpes simplex virus 1 and not HFMD. When my son had it he lived off of Trader Joe’s cereal bars, my middle child did the same and the youngest, was a little more challenging to get to eat because she had a giant sore on her tongue but she did find some things she could eat like applesauce and popsicles. My understanding of HFMD is that it is extremely challenging for the person infected to eat because it spreads into the throat.

How can you help soothe your child who has the initial cold sore outbreak?

I’m not using medical language for this article by the way, the medical terminology for what I’m talking about is called Primary Herpes Simplex Virus 1, or I like to say, first outbreak of cold sores. Here are a few ways to help soothe your child:

  • Visit a doctor if your child is in pain and normal remedies (pain reducing medication) is not work. There is a Magic Mouthwash that doctor’s can prescribe in some cases.
  • Cold popsicles
  • Applesauce
  • Cereal bars and other soft, chewy foods
  • Tylenol or Ibuprofen (if over the age of six months)
  • Cuddles
  • Patience, lots and lots of patience. Our doctor told me that he thinks the first cold sore outbreak is more painful than HFMD. I haven’t experienced either, so I have no clue, I can tell you though that those first few days with Brennan were horrendous simply because he could tell us how he felt and we had no clue what we were dealing with.
  • Lysine – Lysine is a kind of protein that is found in most red meats but you can purchase powdered supplements like this one. We used to put it in Brennan’s milk on a daily basis for about ten to twelve months, I don’t remember how long. It dramatically decreased recurring instances that was dramatic for him because he was breaking out with a cold sore every month for a while before we started the supplements.
  • Melrose Essential Oil – I swear by this stuff now as does Ben, who also gets the occasional cold sore. I purchase my oil from Young Living and I simply use a Q-tip to apply it. The sore is typically cleared up within two or three days. I would not recommend putting it on any child who is under one year old and I do dilute it with fractionated coconut oil.

Cold sores are very common on my husband’s side of the family so my first suggestion is to know your family history because the chances that you’re dealing with herpes simplex virus 1 is very likely if it’s common.

Have you or your child dealt with HFMD or Herpes Simplex Virus 1? Do you have any tips?