Fifth Disease In Children: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Fifth Disease In Kids

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Fifth Disease in Children

The rashes that develop on your child’s skin could be confusing; confusing because rashes are a symptom of not one but various infections, one of them being the fifth disease.

Like a few other infections, the fifth disease in children is marked by bright red rashes. So, how do you identify the infection, and what are the treatment options?

MomJunction answers your questions about the fifth disease and also discusses its causes, symptoms and home remedies. Keep reading.

What is a Fifth disease?

Fifth disease is a viral infection that results in a red rash mainly on the cheeks of the child. This is why it is also known as the slapped cheek disease. The rashes can spread to the arms and legs of the child.

The fifth disease is named so because it is the fifth of the most common viral rash diseases in children, the other four being rubella, roseola, chicken pox, and measles. Another name for the fifth disease is erythema infectiosum (1).

The fifth disease outbreaks are usually observed during early spring and late winter.

[ Read: Skin Rashes In Children ]

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What Causes a Fifth Disease?

For children with a healthy immune system, the fifth disease is a mild infection that rarely has complications in the long run.

Fifth disease is caused by a virus called Parvovirus B19. It infects only humans. Therefore, your child or you cannot catch the virus from a pet and vice versa.

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What are its signs and symptoms?

The initial symptoms of fifth disease are cold-like. Here are the most common signs that appear before the rashes do (2):

  • Mild fever
  • A headache
  • Muscle soreness
  • Fatigue
  • A sore throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Nausea

It usually takes four to 14 days for the first symptoms to appear upon exposure to the virus. The distinctive red rash appears seven to ten days after the appearance of the first symptoms.

The rashes may then spread to the torso, arms, legs, and thighs in a lace-like manner. They start fading after five to ten days.

[ Read: Scarlet Fever In Children ]

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Is Fifth disease contagious?

Yes, fifth disease is contagious and can transmit from one person to another through saliva or respiratory discharges like a cough, sputum, nasal discharge or sneeze.

Some people affected with parvovirus do not show symptoms, but they are contagious enough to spread the virus to others.

The affected person is the most contagious during the initial symptoms such as fever. Once the rash appears, they will no longer remain contagious and may start going to school. However, those with a weak immune system may be contagious for a longer time.

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What are the complications associated with the fifth disease?

The fifth disease is usually mild and not dangerous. But it may exacerbate the effects in children who have some type of anemia (or low red blood cell count), or a weak immune system due to conditions like HIV or leukemia.

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When To See A Doctor?

Go to a doctor if the symptoms get worse with time or if your child suffers from joint swellings. If the child has some type of anemia, such as sickle cell anemia, contact a healthcare professional immediately after they get a fever or look pale. This is because a fifth disease can cause the body to produce fewer red blood cells.

[ Read: Heat Rashes In Children ]

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How is a Fifth disease diagnosed?

Doctors usually diagnose a fifth disease by simply observing and examining the rashes, especially the sign of a ‘slapped cheek’ on the kid’s face.

However, if the child does not have the distinctive rash, but all the other symptoms, the doctor may order a blood test to confirm the cause of the symptoms, i.e., to detect if parvovirus B19 is the cause of the infection.

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Is there a treatment for the Fifth disease?

There is no treatment for the fifth disease. The mild illness clears up on its own without medication.

As the disease is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not used to treat it.

Symptomatic care is given to offer relief from the rashes and fever (3). The doctor may prescribe acetaminophen for lowering any fever and aches, and antihistamines for relieving any itchiness of the rashes.

Most times, plenty of rest and home care are enough for the child to recover from the disease.

[ Read: Hives In Children ]

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Home Remedies For Fifth Disease

Here are certain things you can do at home to relieve the symptoms of the fifth disease:

  • Vitamin C

It does not cure the disease but makes the immune system stronger. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and has antiviral properties (4). You can offer your kid lemon or orange juice.

  • Apple cider vinegar

This too has antiviral properties and helps in reducing the acidic nature of the body in which virus can thrive (5).

  • Baking soda

Baking soda baths can detoxify the body and help relieve the burning and itching sensation of the rashes.

Fifth disease is mild but the rashes could be irritating, and your child will have to miss the school until the virus subsides. Therefore, take every measure to prevent the disease.

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How To Prevent The Fifth Disease?

There is no vaccine or medication to prevent Parvovirus. The only way to avoid the infection is to maintain good hygiene.

If someone is infected, keep your child away from them to avoid contracting the virus. Do not allow the child to use any common utensils, towels or toothbrush of the infected person.

And if your child has contracted it then have him or her:

  • Wash hands with soap and water
  • Cover mouth while coughing or sneezing
  • Not touch the nose or mouth
  • Avoid close contact with others
  • Stay at home until the symptoms are relieved

[ Read: Measles In Children ]

Children with a healthy immune system usually do not get the fifth disease for the second time. Although it cannot be cured with medicines, fifth disease is mild and goes away on its own. There is no vaccine to prevent the disease, but you can try to avoid it by following good hygiene.

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Do you have any other tips to deal with the fifth disease? Share them in the comment box below.

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MA English Pursuing Child Nutrition and Cooking from Stanford UniversitySudipta is an English Major from the University of Hyderabad. Has considerable medical research writing experience, but also enjoys creative writing and the arts. Her writings aim to make highly scientific/ health material easy to understand for a common reader.She is also a National Novel Writing Month awardee. Sudipta loves to hit the roads to find stories and motivation to fill up her canvases and the pages of her diary.
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