My battle with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (or, Getting Glutened Sucks)

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My extremities looked much like this for several hellish, painful days.

We’ve just gotten back from a three-week vacation in Queensland, visiting my family. We had a great time catching up and letting Chipmunk meet this batch of relatives for the first time. Well, it was MOSTLY a great time. I managed to get rather thoroughly glutened three days into our trip, which gave me my usual foggy brain and urgly blurghy stomach for the next 24 hours or so. Then things took a rather nasty turn for the worse.

It began on a Tuesday with a sore throat and a bad headache, the kind that feels like carrying too much tension in your neck. There was also about a day of feeling under the weather – tired and foggy headed.

By Wednesday night, I’d noticed a few spots had appeared on my hand. I wouldn’t have thought much of them if there hadn’t been an outbreak of hand, foot & mouth (HFM) after an IKEA trip we’d been to about three weeks before. So I checked my mouth and sure enough, I had spots.

Thursday saw the addition of quite a few spots to my hands and feet, but an improvement in my throat. The spots were occasionally itchy as they became blisters, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Friday was more of the same – more spots, and more itching. I found an ice pack helped to numb the nerves and stop the itch for a while, and by then I needed it. The itching was driving me a bit crazy. I can’t even call it itchiness – it was an unrelenting, burning pain that made me want to take my skin off with a potato peeler. This induced a foul mood that varied between trying to bite the Raccoon’s head off, holding an ice pack while trying not to cry, and feeling guilty when I yelled at the Chipmunk. Needless to say, that night was not a pleasant one.

Saturday morning I took a one-a-day dose of Claratyne and slathered my extremities in calamine lotion. The relief this engendered is difficult to describe. The blisters still hurt to touch, and they still itched, but it was an annoying tingle instead of the previous burning agony. A second dose of antihistamine just before bed saw me through the night.

By Sunday the first blisters to appear were starting to fade, although more were still appearing on my feet. My elbows and knees decided to join in too.  I also got a couple on and in my nose, which burst. I cleaned out the dried gunk with a cotton bud and dabbed tea tree oil on the external blisters to help control the virus (the blister fluid carries the virus and thus is highly contagious).

It was a downhill ride from there – almost all the blisters were gone by the next Tuesday, with just three stubborn hangers-on til Thursday. The skin over the top of the blisters has gone dead and is peeling off. There’s lovely pink, sensitive skin underneath.

My case was a bit unusual in that Chipmunk didn’t get sick with HFM at any point (or if she did, it was such a mild case that we didn’t notice it). The disease is a bit like chickenpox – usually babies and young children are more susceptible than adults, but their symptoms are also much less severe. From my own experience, this is definitely one disease I wish I’d caught young.

One thing’s for sure – I’m paying extra close attention to what I eat from now on. And it will be a long, long while before I feel the siren song of a deliberate gluten overload. If gluten can wreck my immune system to the point where I succumbed to a virus that should have well and truly cleared my system by the time I developed HFM – well, it’s just not worth it.