Fifth disease, or “slapped cheek” disease, results in a rash that causes the face to turn bright red, as if slapped. The rash also can appear on the arms and legs. It is common among children who are pre-school or school age. It also can appear in adults.
The disease has no lasting effects in healthy children, but may cause problems in pregnant women and people who have weak immune systems.
A virus called parvovirus B19 causes the disease. The disease spreads through the fluids in the nose and mouth when someone coughs or sneezes.
In some people with fifth disease, there are no symptoms at all. Around 20% of people who get fifth disease do not have symptoms. However, the disease can cause a rash on the cheeks that is bright red. The rash also may appear on the arms and legs. It disappears within two weeks. Other symptoms include:
Usually, a doctor can diagnose the disease by looking at the rash. The only way to have an exact diagnosis of fifth disease is through a blood test, but blood tests are not needed in most cases.
Fifth disease has no treatment. In about two weeks, the virus goes away on its own. Although there is no treatment, Acetaminophen or Tylenol can help to relieve fever, headache, and joint pain.
In most cases, there are no complications and children and adults recover completely. There is more of a risk of complications if there are blood problems like sickle cell anemia or if a person has a weak immune system. Also, the disease can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby. Anemia in the baby may result. In rare cases, a pregnant woman could have a miscarriage.
Most women are immune to the virus, but call your doctor if you are pregnant and have been exposed to someone with fifth disease.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 05/25/2015