Fifth Disease

Pediatric Basics

Fifth disease (erythema infectiosum) is another common viral infection of childhood that causes a distinctive rash.

Symptoms of Fifth Disease

Fifth disease begins with mild symptoms, including a fever, muscle aches, headache and decreased activity for a few days. About 7 to 10 days later, affected children will develop a red rash on their cheeks, which takes on the typical 'slapped cheeks' appearance of Fifth Disease.

Next, kids get a pink or red lacelike rash on their arms. This rash comes and goes and may spread to their legs, trunk and buttocks.

Children usually develop symptoms 2-3 weeks after being exposed to someone with Fifth Disease.

Diagnosis of Fifth Disease

Although a blood test (serum B19-specific IgM and IgG antibody) is available, it is not usually necessary in most kids. Diagnosis is instead made in children with the typical rash.

Treatments for Fifth Disease

No treatment is usually necessary. If the rash is itchy, usual symptomatic anti-itch treatments may be tried.

What You Need To Know

  • the lacelike Fifth Disease rash can come and go for weeks or months. It is typically worse when your child is overheated.

  • Fifth disease is caused by the Parvovirus B19 virus and is most common during the spring and school outbreaks are common.

  • Although a mild infection in most children, adults with Fifth Disease can also get arthritis. People with immune system problems or sickle cell disease can also have more serious complications.

  • Children with Fifth Disease are most contagious before they begin to show symptoms. Once they have a rash, they are usually not contagious anymore.

  • Be sure to alert any pregnant women who may have been exposed to your child with Fifth Disease. Since there is a long incubation period and children are most contagious before they show symptoms, if you are pregnant and have never had Fifth Disease yourself, you may want to avoid children who have been exposed to Fifth Disease for at least 2-3 weeks to see if they develop symptoms and are contagious.

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