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 the 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 that lasts for 2 to 5 days. Then you may get a rash on your body that lasts for a week. The rash may come back if you are in sunlight or warm temperatures, or if you feel stressed. Some people have symptoms on and off for months. 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 call line 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 call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: July 26, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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