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What is Fifth Disease?

Fifth disease is a viral infection caused by the human parvovirus B19. It is most common in school age children during the winter and spring months.

What are the common symptoms of Fifth Disease?

The primary symptom of fifth disease is a visible rash on the child's skin. The rash typically starts on the cheeks, causing a bright red appearance, and spreads to the rest of the body.

It is sometimes called "slapped check" disease due to this rash. The rash usually lasts 2 to 4 days and has a "lacey" appearance. Rashes typically last two to four days.

When is my child contagious?

The biggest challenge for prevention is that children are actually most contagious before the primary symptom occurs, and may not display even mild symptoms for weeks after the initial exposure.

Mild symptoms of Fifth Disease include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Runny Nose
  • Sore Throat
  • Itching

What is the treatment for Fifth Disease?

Unfortunately, antibiotics are not effective against viral infections like fifth disease. However, there are still measures you can take if your child is diagnosed with the illness.

Treatment for fifth disease focuses on mitigating the severity of symptoms and making your child more comfortable.


Guard against dehydration by increasing the fluid your child takes.


Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lower fever. Here is a guide to using over-the-counter fever-reducing medicines.

NEVER give aspirin to your child. Aspirin has been associated with Reye's Syndrome, a serious complication.


The rash may cause itching. Over-the-counter antihistamines may help reduce this. Your physician can guide you on the dosage and use for your child.

Be sure to follow up with your child’s health care provider to track the progress of symptoms and ensure a full recovery.

How can I prevent the spread of Fifth Disease?

To prevent the spread of fifth disease, always encourage your children to practice good hand-washing habits before eating and after they use the bathroom. Additionally, teach your children how to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

If you are pregnant and come in contact with this disease, contact your obstetrician.

Karen K. Meyer, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Hawthorne Court (178 & Q)

Dr. Meyer answers your questions about child development and parenting. Dr. Meyer decided to become a doctor when she was in school and learned about the body's systems and the miracle of how they all work together. She likes talking to children and helping them feel better. Dr. Meyer believes that children are not little adults and they need to be treated in a way that will help them understand why they aren't feeling well and what they can do to get better. She also works to build tru ...

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