How Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is Causing My Nails to Fall Off

Dear L’Oreal,

I’m dealing with something pretty awful right now. After catching hand, foot and mouth disease from my toddler, my nails are starting to fall out. It’s really distressing. Do you have any advice for me?

Nail-less in Seattle

First and foremost, my deepest sympathies are with you. I know exactly what you’re going through. Being a first-time mom to a two-year-old, I’ve become well-acquainted with the whole buffet of childhood viruses: RSV, HFMD, ear infections … you name it.

That whole meme about daycare being a breeding ground for germs? It’s no joke. At this point, whenever I receive that dreaded midday call from my daughter’s daycare, I’m out the door in a flash because I know the drill.

Before my daughter started daycare, I was honestly very healthy and hardly ever got sick. I even managed to evade COVID for the first three years of the pandemic. But the moment she started daycare, things changed. My immune system just couldn’t keep up with the constant onslaught of germs.

So when the daycare informed me of a case of hand, foot and mouth disease in my daughter’s class, I knew I was in for a rough time. While my daughter and husband were unscathed, my sister and I weren’t so lucky. And let me tell you, HFMD was so much worse than COVID for me.

The itching was unbearable. I practically tried every over-the-counter anti-itch remedy I could find, but nothing worked quite as well as the cold washcloth from my freezer. And then came the peeling. I felt like I had turned into a snake overnight because of all the shedding. It was pretty gross.

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, I started losing my nails. According to the CDC, nail loss from HFMD is uncommon and only happens in 4% of severe cases. I still can’t wrap my head around why this is happening to me, but here we are.

Luckily, a mom friend who had lost all of her nails warned me that this could happen. She prepared me for it, but I was still pretty upset about it.

Onychomadesis, a condition where the nail plate detaches from both the nail matrix and the nail bed, is a late-stage complication of HFMD that usually occurs about four to six weeks after the virus sets in. HFMD is a common viral infection among children, but it can also be severe in adults.

Simply put, HFMD is the gift that keeps on giving.

Dr. Kendall R. Steadmon, the associate program director for the pediatric residency program at the University of Florida, explained that there isn’t much you can do to prevent nail loss from happening. The good news is that the nails typically grow back completely normal without long-term deformities.

If you’re dealing with nail shedding from past HFMD, it’s best to consult a professional to assess the damage. Keeping the skin around the nails moisturized can also help in the healing process.

Personally, I tried structured manicures and found that they helped protect my nails while the damaged parts grew out. They lasted about three weeks between fill-in or touch-up appointments, so it’s a great option if you can’t get to a salon.

Despite everything, I’m trying to look on the bright side and use my monthly manicure appointments as an excuse to experiment with fun nail designs. When life gives you HFMD, you turn it into an opportunity to treat yourself to pretty nails because you deserve it, mama!

And now, you’re probably wondering who I am and why you should listen to me? Well, my name is L’Oreal. I’m an author, health and wellness journalist, and certified yoga teacher. After a tough fertility journey, I became a mom and have been navigating parenthood ever since.

Thank you for sharing your parenting questions with me. I can’t wait to tackle everything from periods to postpartum with you. Think of me as your personal cheerleader and new mom friend, here to offer guidance and support. Reach out to me on Instagram, Twitter, or email with anything you want me to weigh in on.

Warm regards,
L’Oreal Thompson Payton (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Chuck Olu-Alabi)


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