Fifth Disease

Fifth disease, or Erythema infectiosum, is also called "slapped cheek syndrome" due to the appearance of red cheeks in infected children. The disease is a manifestation of the airborne virus, parvovirus B19. It is classified as the 5th rash-causing childhood disease among measles, scarlet fever, rubella, Dukes' disease, and roseola.


The virus is fairly common and tends to spread throughout elementary aged children in the winter and spring. A child with fifth disease will often break out in a red rash on the arms, legs, and cheeks.


Adults who did not have fifth disease as children, and therefore do not have antibodies, may become infected and experience joint pain in the wrists, ankles, and knees. When adults are infected, the symptoms tend to be more severe. It is dangerous for a pregnant woman and poses many risks to the unborn baby.


There is no cure for fifth disease, and in most cases, no treatment is needed. The rash resolves by itself, and additional symptoms such as a headache or low-grade fever may be treated with over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen (Tylenol).


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