Fifth disease is named because it is the last condition in the list of five viral rashes that affects children. The other four include measles/mumps, rubella, roseola, and chicken pox. It is scientifically known as Erythema infectiosum. Although it is familiar with little kids, the disease is often mild. Adults rarely contract the virus, but if they do, it can be more severe. The virus called parvovirus B19 causes fifth disease. It spreads through sneezing, coughing, and other respiratory secretions. About 20 percent of young patients do not display any symptoms of fifth disease, but they can pass the virus along.
The primary symptom of fifth disease is bright red cheeks. For several decades, the condition was known as “slapped cheek disease” because of this particular trait. The virus does not only make the cheeks rosy but other areas of the body, too. If your child experiences this noticeable symptom, you need to consult with the doctor as soon as possible.
The rash can spread from bright cheeks to the arms, legs, and torso. It might be raised or flat and can last anywhere from a couple of days to over a month. For some children, the rash might be itchy and look lacy in appearance with the redness in the center and whiteness fading to the edges. After exercising, taking a bath, or rubbing the skin, the skin may look more irritated. The recurring rash can even trigger if you are emotionally upset. Not all those who suffer from fifth disease will develop a rash. On the other hand, some patients will have a rash that lasts for several weeks. Both are considered typical symptoms of fifth disease. The outbreak might also change or worsen as your skin is exposed to different environmental situations.
Fifth disease is most prevalent during the winter and spring months. Even though it spreads at any time of the year to people of all ages, it is common for elementary kids to contract it as they enter school. If you are unsure of where a rash came from, this may give you some insight to the culprit.
When children develop fifth disease, they can experience mild symptoms including a low-grade fever, headache, or a sore throat. It would be difficult to diagnose a viral infection off of these symptoms alone since they are common signs of a plethora of illnesses. However, do not be surprised if your child complains of such things. Joint pain and swelling are less usual symptoms of fifth disease, but if they are present, they should not last long.
Speaking of joint pain, this is the primary symptom in adults with fifth disease. It is most common in the wrists, knees, and ankles. These painful inconveniences tend to go away after about two weeks. However, around 10 percent of adults who contract the virus will suffer from prolonged, sometimes chronic, joint pain and other related fifth disease symptoms. Muscle and abdominal pain is another familiar ache as a result of the infection. They also tend to suffer from flu-like problems, but on a more severe level. A headache, sore throat, and fever may have you in bed for some time. At least adults seldom develop a rash in association with fifth disease, but they may have the severe symptoms for seven to ten days.
Although the signs of severe flu-like symptoms and joint pain are the same in pregnant women with fifth disease, it is critical they carefully monitor their symptoms. If you are pregnant and develop fifth disease, it is essential to know that most babies are not affected by the infection. Further, there is no connection between this disease and congenital disabilities. If a fetus does contract fifth disease, it can disrupt the production of red blood cells, which leads to dangerous anemia, heart failure, and even miscarriage or stillbirth in some cases. The chance of a pregnant woman having a miscarriage due to a fetus contracting this infection is about a ten percent risk.
If you come in contact with a patient with fifth disease and are unsure of your immune status, you should be cautious if you develop symptoms. There is no medication available to cure this particular disease, so most medical providers ask their patients to wait out the symptoms because there is no prescription to shorten the illness. However, if you or your child has sickle cell anemia or any other related chronic anemia, you need to seek medical help if you have been exposed to fifth disease and have the symptoms. Likewise, you need to consult a doctor immediately if a rash lasts longer than five weeks, becomes purple, or displays painful blisters. If your child looks unusually ill or has a weakened immune system, contact a physician, who will monitor the fifth disease symptoms.
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