Fifth Disease: Symptom, Treatment, Prevention

Overview

Fifth disease is often incorrectly referred to as fifths disease.

Another name for it is erythema infectiosum. It is also sometimes called slapped cheek syndrome. It is a viral disease that often results in a red rash on the arms, legs, and cheeks.

This condition is more common in children with ages from 5 to 15.

It got its name because it was fifth in a list of historical classifications of common skin rash illnesses in children.

Causes

Fifth disease occurs due to human parvovirus B19 infection.

The human parvovirus B19 causes parvovirus infection. This is different from the parvovirus seen in dogs and cats; people can’t get the infection from a pet or vice versa.

Instead, the fifth disease spreads from person to person, just like a cold, often through respiratory secretions and hand-to-hand contact.

Symptoms

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • low-grade fever
  • sore throat
  • nausea
  • runny nose
  • stuffy nose

These symptoms tend to appear 4 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. After a few days of having these symptoms, most young people develop a red rash that first appears on the cheeks.

The rash often spreads to the arms, legs, and trunk of the body within a few days. The rash may last for weeks. And it is more likely to appear in children than in adults.

Diagnosis

Doctors can often make the diagnosis by simply looking at your rash. Your doctor may test you for specific antibodies if you’re likely to face serious consequences from fifth disease. This is especially true if you’re pregnant or have a compromised immune system.

Treatment

For most healthy people, no treatment is necessary. If your joints hurt or you have a headache or fever, you may be advised to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) as needed to relieve these symptoms.

Otherwise, you’ll need to wait for your body to fight off the virus. This usually takes one to three weeks.

You can help the process along by drinking a lot of fluids and getting extra rest. Often, children can return to school once the red rash appears since they’re no longer contagious.

Prevention

There’s
no vaccine to prevent the fifth disease. Once you’ve become infected with
parvovirus, you acquire lifelong immunity.

Since fifth disease usually spreads from one person to another through airborne secretions, you should try to minimize contact with people who are sneezing, coughing, or blowing their noses.

Washing your hands frequently can also help reduce the chances of getting the fifth disease.

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