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"Slapped Cheek Disease" - What Every Parent Should Know

Updated on March 15, 2012

There are several relatively common conditions every parent should know about in their children. Viral infections are common in children especially of the younger age group so it is definitely not surprising if your kids were to come down with a mild respiratory illness, a viral rash or for those who are unvaccinated; chicken pox and measles.

There is a condition call Fifth Disease/Erythema Infectiosum or "Slapped Cheek Disease" that occurs in young preschool and school-aged children from 4 - 10 years of age. It can also occur in adulthood.

The disease is caused by a virus called parvovirus B19. Most infections caused by this virus do not have any symptoms. Approximately six out of ten people in the population have had the virus by the time they are adults. It is not life threatening and complications are rare.

Child With "Slapped Cheek Disease" aka Fifth Disease
Child With "Slapped Cheek Disease" aka Fifth Disease

Disease Transmission

The disease is contagious and is spreaded by inhaling fluid droplets from an infected person or through touching these fluid droplets.


Signs and symptoms

The disease usually presents with very non specific symptoms which include fever, headache, stomach upsets, aches and pains. These symptoms can be quickly mistaken as the flu bug but in fact at this stage, the virus would have spreaded easily through saliva. Symptoms will take between 4 to 14 days after getting infected by the virus. The incubation period for this illness is. Fifth disease is no longer infectious once the rash appears.

The "slapped cheek appearance" takes about 3 to 7 days to appear. It usually presents as a bright red rash on the cheeks. ┬ĚThere may also be rash developing on the back, arms, chest and legs. The rash has a lacy appearance. It comes and goes for several weeks. It also re-appears after a bath, exercise or exposure to sunlight.

Older children and adults may get swollen joints (arthritis) which get better after a few days.

Note

  1. Most people get Fifth Disease as a child and become immune as adults and won't get it again. In most children,
  2. Pregnant women (previously uninfected with Fifth Disease) who become infected or come in contact with Fifth Disease will pose a severe threat to the unborn baby. it can cause severe anaemia in the unborn child. If that happens, they must see their doctor for blood tests and monitoring of their pregnancy.
  3. Children with some haematological conditions like leukaemia, sickle cell anaemia or thalassaemia can get serious problems such as anaemia with Fifth Disease. Therefore, they must not come in contact with children with Fifth Disease

Treatment and Management

Children who are infected with the virus will not need specific treatment for it. What they need is adequate rest, paracetamol for fever and time off from school. Antibiotics will not cure your child of "Slapped Cheek Disease " or Fifth Disease.

Tips To Remember

  1. Inform your family doctor if your child has sickle cell anaemia or severe anaemia and develops Fifth Disease (low level of red blood cells in the blood).
  2. If your child is on long term steroids or is immune-compromised, you must also inform your family doctor
  3. If you are pregnant and exposed to someone with slapped cheek, get yourself tested with the human parvovirus B19a parvovirus IgG serology test. Remember the person with slapped cheek disease is infectious two weeks before the rash appears. If you have already had human parvovirus B19 then there are no concerns for your unborn baby. If you have not, your unborn baby can get a type of anaemia (low level of red blood cells in the blood).

Fifth Disease in Adults

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