Local clinicians in Wrangell are seeing a large number of children who are infected with the common childhood illness hand, foot, and mouth disease. The viral sickness primarily affects infants and children under five. It starts with a fever and after two days the child develops blister-like sores in the mouth and rashes on the hands and feet.

The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person such as saliva, mucus, and stool. The best way to prevent the spread is by keeping infected children away from other kids. Dr. Greg Salard from Alaska Island Community Services says that if your kids are sick, keep them home from daycare. Usually children are the most contagious within the first week of being infected. The disease spreads easily. You can reduce the spread by washing your hands with soap and water and cleaning toys and surfaces with soap and a weak bleach solution.

Because the disease is caused by a virus, you can only treat the symptoms, not the disease itself. Salard suggests acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease pain and the fever. You can also mix liquid Benadryl with Maalox and swish it in your child’s mouth to relieve the pain of the sores. He says the child should swish the mixture then spit it out.

Salard says that the clinic cannot do much to treat the disease, and it usually passes without complications. However, if a child is very sick or the parent is very worried, they should definitely be seen by a medical professional. Hand, foot, and mouth disease does share some symptoms with other illnesses.

For more information, listen to the entire interview.