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Fifth disease is a viral illness that is much more common in children than adults. It is also known as "slapped cheek disease" because of the red rash some people develop on their faces. Fifth disease is spread mostly by coughs and sneezes. By the time the rash appears, you can no longer spread the disease to anyone else. Once you have been infected with this virus, you cannot get it again.
Fifth disease can make you feel like you are coming down with influenza (flu). You may have a runny nose, sore throat, headache, belly pain, and achy joints. A few days later, you may get a bright red rash on your cheeks and then later over the rest of the body. The rash may last for 7 to 10 days. The rash may come and go for several weeks. You may get swollen, red joints that can last for several weeks or even months.
Self-care at home, such as rest, fluids, and pain relievers, is usually the only care you need for fifth disease. Doctors do not use antibiotics to treat fifth disease, because it is caused by a virus rather than bacteria.
If you are pregnant and have been exposed to fifth disease, talk with your doctor. There is a very small chance that your baby may develop anemia. Likewise, talk with your doctor if you have any form of long-term anemia and are exposed to fifth disease. Fifth disease can make anemia worse.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
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Current as of: October 31, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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