Fifth Disease

Learning the signs and symptoms of slapped cheek syndrome

One of the most common childhood illnesses, fifth disease is an extremely contagious viral condition that appears in children from the ages of 5 to 15 years. It's called "fifth disease" because historically, it was considered the fifth of the traditional childhood rashes that children could expect to get during their lifetime. It is a relatively harmless virus, causing a lacy rash that spreads over the body and bright red cheeks that make the child appear as if he has just been slapped, which has given it the name "slapped cheek syndrome".


Fifth disease is also known by its Latin name, erythema infectiosum, and it is considered to be caused by Parvovirus 10.

Symptoms of fifth disease

Fifth disease is a generally mild condition. A child may have a fever that won't go away, or a general feeling of malaise, before the rash breaks out over the trunk, arms, legs and face, creating the "slapcheek" look that gives the disease its name. The rash may itch slightly, but the child will generally feel flu-like symptoms and run a fever for two to three days. The rash may last for a few more days, sometimes up to two weeks; children are no longer contagious once the rash has broken out. Teenagers may find that they have swelling of the joints and painful muscles with fifth disease.

While it is a mild illness in children, fifth disease and pregnancy is a different story. Women who are pregnant and exposed to fifth disease should see a medical professional immediately, as it can cause risks to the unborn child.

Treatment for fifth disease

Because it is a virus, there is really no treatment to cure fifth disease. Instead, parents are advised to keep their child calm and resting, give medications for any high fevers, and use calamine lotion or another anti-itch cream to take away the itch of the rash. The virus will pass within a week, and the child will be back to normal.

Fifth disease is one of those childhood illnesses with virtually no complications in healthy children, which makes it relatively uncomfortable, but not serious.