Herpetic Whitlow Symptoms: Causes & Home Remedies To Treat It

Herpetic whitlow is a lesion that is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It is a painful condition that characteristically afflicts the fingers or thumbs. Infrequently, the infection may develop on the toes or the nail cuticle. Herpetic whitlow may be caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2.

HSV-1 infection is frequently seen contracted in health care workers who are in contact with the virus; as well as in dental workers and medical workers who are exposed to oral secretions.

It is also known to develop in thumb sucking toddlers having primary herpes simplex -1 oral infection and in adults after contact with herpes simplex -2-infected genitals.

This viral infection, occurs when the herpes virus enters broken skin. Herpetic whitlow starts with a burning, tingling sensation in your skin followed by tiny, painful blisters. There will be redness, swelling and tenderness of infected finger. By and large, the lesions heal in 2 to 3 weeks.

In children, the main source of infection is the oro-facial area, and HSV-1 is transmitted by sucking the fingers. In adults, the chief source is the genital area, with a dominance of HSV-2.

Contact sports are also very commonly seen source of infection.

Symptoms Of Herpetic Whitlow

Symptoms and clinical features are most commonly seen on the thumb and index finger. On the other hand, a whitlow can also occur on a toe.

  • Initially, there will be a dull pain, itching, tingling, numbness in the infected area.
  • After a few days the lesions / blisters are formed.
  • The finger gets red, swollen and is tender. A small group of vesicles forms.
  • Eruption of the vesicles is followed by scabbing.
  • Healing occurs after 2 to 3 weeks.

Natural Remedies To Treat Herpetic Whitlow

  • Although a self-limited disease condition, oral or IV anti-viral, particularly acyclovir are used to effectively manage immuno-compromised as well as severe infections. Surgically debriding the eruptions are known to be counter-productive.
  • Do not pop a whitlow blister. This intensifies the infection, increases the risk of super infection, and adds to the chance of you transmitting the virus to others.
  • Talk to your health care provider, he will prescribe simple analgesics to manage the pain.
  • Apply ice packs to the lesions, several times a day; it helps reduce the swelling and pain more so, during the preliminary phase.
  • Make sure you boost your vitamin C intake; vitamin C helps fight of the infection faster, it peps up the working of the immune system. Have a vitamin C supplement as well as step your intake of limes, lemons, oranges, berries, bell peppers and mangoes.
  • Liberal application of over the counter acyclovir based creams to the affected finger as soon as the blister bursts helps immensely; the infection begins to clear up in 48 hours. Apply the cream and cover the lesion with a cotton finger boot for at least 2 days, then remove the boot to air the eruption and to allow a protective scab to form.
  • Tea tree essential oil is an excellent home remedy for the lesions. It is a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Apply neat tea tree essential oil to the affected finger 7 to 10 times daily.

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