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Everything You Need to Know About Fifth Disease

What is fifth disease?

Fifth disease is a viral disease that often results in a red rash on the arms, legs, and cheeks. For this reason, it’s also known as “slapped cheek disease.”

It’s fairly common and mild in most children. It can be more severe for pregnant women or anyone with a compromised immune system.

Most doctors advise people with fifth disease to wait out the symptoms. This is because there’s currently no medication that’ll shorten the course of the disease.

However, if you have a weakened immune system, your doctor may need to closely monitor you until the symptoms disappear.

Read on to find out:

  • why fifth disease develops
  • who is most at risk
  • how to know when that red rash may be a sign of something more serious

What causes fifth disease?

Parvovirus B19 causes fifth disease. This airborne virus tends to spread through saliva and respiratory secretions among children who are in elementary school.

It’s most commonTrusted Source in:

  • late winter
  • spring
  • early summer

However, it can spread at any time and among people of any age.

Many adults have antibodies that prevent them from developing fifth disease because of previous exposure during childhood. When contracting fifth disease as an adult, the symptoms can be severe.

If you get fifth disease while pregnant, there are serious risks for your unborn baby, including life-threatening anemia.

For children with healthy immune systems, fifth disease is a common, mild illness that rarely presents lasting consequences.

What are the symptoms of fifth disease?

The initial symptoms of fifth disease are very general. They may resemble mild symptoms of the flu. Symptoms often include:

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • low-grade fever
  • sore throat
  • nausea
  • runny nose
  • stuffy nose

After a few days of having these symptoms, most young people develop a red rash that first appears on the cheeks. Sometimes the rash is the first sign of the illness that’s noticed.

The rash tends to clear up on one area of the body and then re-appear on another part of the body within a few days.

In addition to the cheeks, the rash will often appear on the:

  • arms
  • legs
  • trunk of the body

The rash may last for weeks. But, by the time you see it, you’re usually no longer contagious.

Children are more likely to get a rash than adults. In fact, the main symptom adults usually experience is joint pain. Joint pain can last for several weeks. It’s usually most noticeable in the:

  • wrists
  • ankles
  • knees

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