A mommy friend at your child’s school gives you a heads up that fifth disease is going around. She tells you it’s highly contagious. You react like every other parent who hears about it for the first time: “What is fifth disease? Like F-I-F-T-H? Like after fourth? I’ve never heard of that before.” You’re right, it’s not a sickness we hear of everyday, like the flu or strep. So, what is fifth disease and what do parents need to know?
What are the Symptoms of Fifth Disease?
Fifth disease can be a little tricky to recognize at first. Because it can start off with a low fever, stuffy nose, and headache, people often mistake it for the flu. But a few days after the initial flu-like symptoms go away, a distinct bright red, rash appears, typically on the face. This is followed by more red blotches on the arms, legs, and torso. A few days later, the rash gets very itchy and takes on a net-like appearance.
How Long Does the Condition Last?
Fifth disease usually last between 1 and 3 weeks. Older kids and adults can sometimes experience joint swelling and pain that can last from weeks to months, and sometimes years, although this is uncommon.
What Causes Fifth Disease? How Do You Catch It?
Fifth disease is caused by the parvovirus B19. It typically spreads through respiratory secretions such as saliva and mucus when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People are most contagious when they have the fever or cold symptoms, and typically are no longer contagious once they get the rash or joint pain.
How is it Prevented and Treated?
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for fifth disease. Because it’s a virus, antibiotics cannot treat it, but it will go away on its own. Just make sure your child rests and drinks plenty of fluids. You can ask a doctor for help treating the symptoms such as the itchy rash or headache.