The Fifth Contagious Childhood Illness

Fifth Disease is a highly contagious childhood illness. It is also known as Slapped Cheek disease because children with it have a big bright red rash on their cheek. Many people are unaware of this fifth childhood illness and the potential hazards it carries for pregnant women.

The alternative names for Fifth Disease are: Slapped or Slap Cheek, erythema infectiosum or parvovirus B19. Don’t worry, the dog parvovirus and the human parvovirus are two different diseases and cannot be spread between the species.

Springtime is the most common time of year for children to contract the disease. It is most common among preschoolers and elementary age children. However, adults can also catch it. The symptoms of the disease begin between four and fourteen days after a child is exposed. The first thing you will notice are flu like symptoms including a low grade fever, a stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches, runny nose, tiredness, tummy ache, swollen glands and a sore throat. They can also look like they have pink eye because sometimes their eyes turn red.

One of the most painful aspects of the disease is the joint swelling in different parts of the body. During this initial period is when the patient is most contagious. But, they are also contagious before they even know they are sick and right up until the rash appears. The flu like symptoms begin to go away and a rash will appear 5 to 11 days later. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the stomach, arms and legs. Once the rash begins, the child is no longer contagious. The rash can last for up to three weeks, but normally it will go away after the first week.

Exposures to sunlight, heat, exercise, fever or emotional stress make the rash worse. A person with this rash will notice that it becomes a brighter red as they go from a cool environment into a warm one. The rash begins to lesson, during the second stage leaving a lacy pattern. This is another one of those nasty viruses that can be caused from a child not covering their nose when they sneeze. Droplets are released into the air and the children around them get the germ from breathing it in. This is why it is so important that we teach our children to cover their noses when they sneeze and to wash their hands.

Since there is no vaccine, it is important that you keep your child home from school and out of day care if they have this. They could easily spread it to the other children that are around them.

To treat Fifth Disease you need only make the child more comfortable. Give your child Tylenol, Advil or Motrin to help with the fever and any pain or discomfort they might be feeling.

Never give a child aspirin when they have a viral illness such as Fifth disease; it can develop into Reye’s syndrome, which is deadly. There is no cure for Fifth Disease; it simply goes away on it’s own. Pregnant women who have been exposed to Fifth Disease should report it to their obstetrician.

Usually there will be no harm to your pregnancy, but it definitely should be monitored. There have been instances where Fifth Disease caused miscarriage or abnormalities in the fetus. If you are pregnant you should try to avoid large groups of children where you may be exposed to Fifth Disease.

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