Exploring Common Childhood Viruses: Fifth Disease

We are all familiar with the chicken pox and the flu, but fifth disease is not as widely understood. Fifth disease is usually a quick and uncomplicated viral illness, but the distinctive red rashes always cause alarm in parents.

Familiarize yourself with fifth disease below so that you can recognize it in your own child and arrange the best treatment without delay.

What Is Fifth Disease?

Fifth disease is a viral illness that often develops in young children ages 5 to 15. It spreads through saliva and respiratory secretions, especially in school settings where so many children are together.

This illness is known to cause a bold red rash on the face. The redness caused by fifth disease is so distinctive that it can be compared to having a “slapped cheek”. This rash usually spreads down the trunk, arms, and legs and lasts up to three weeks.

Symptoms of Fifth Disease

Fifth disease begins with very general symptoms, so it is difficult to predict. Initial symptoms include low grade fever, headache, and congestion. These symptoms gradually disappear, only to be replaced by the red rash a few days later.

The rash associated with fifth disease starts on the face in a bright red color, then spreads across the rest of the body in a lighter color. Your child’s rash might become itchy or take on a lacy, net-like appearance. All of this is normal!

How to Treat Your Child’s Fifth Disease

There is no vaccine or medication to prevent or treat fifth disease. Fortunately, it is mild enough to be treated with rest, hydration, and acetaminophen. Other than discomfort from the rash and fatigue, your child may not even feel sick at all.

If your child’s rash does not fade after a few weeks, or if your child seems unusually uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician. Dr. Stephen Nelson serves all of St. Petersburg to give your child the best care possible. Call (727) 525-2161 to schedule an appointment now.