Fifth disease is a skin rash caused by a parvovirus. It's also called "slapped cheek" disease because it starts with bright red patches on both cheeks that last for 1 to 3 days. The red cheeks are followed by a pink "lacelike" rash on the upper arms and thighs. This "lacy" rash comes and goes several times over 1 to 3 weeks. During this time, the child usually has no fever. If you're certain your child has Fifth disease, here's what you need to know:
- First: No treatment is necessary for the child with Fifth disease. This distinctive rash is harmless and causes no itch, pain or complications.
- Second: The risk of Fifth disease is to the unborn babies of pregnant women. If a pregnant woman is exposed to a child with Fifth disease, she should see her obstetrician. He will obtain an antibody test to see if the mother already had the disease and is therefore protected. If not, the pregnancy will need to be monitored closely. Some fetuses infected with Fifth disease before birth develop complications. Ten percent develop severe anemia and 2 percent may die. Birth defects, however, are not caused by this virus.
- Third: Because the disease is contagious during the week before the rash begins, a child who already has slapped cheeks or the lacy rash is no longer considered contagious. He does not need to stay home from day care or school. Exposed children will come down with the rash in 10 to 14 days. Exposed children should try to avoid contact with pregnant women, but this is sometimes difficult.
If you think your child may need to be seen, call your healthcare provider for advice.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 6/1/2000
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.