Fifth disease (erythema infectiosum) is a contagious and
usually mild viral illness that is common in children. Early symptoms of fifth
disease are like flu symptoms, which are then followed by a rash on the face
that looks like slapped cheeks and a lacy pink rash on the backs of the arms
and legs, torso, and buttocks.
This illness is most contagious the
week before the rash appears. After the rash has started, the child usually is
no longer contagious. The rash may come and go for several weeks in response to
changes in temperature and sunlight.
Home treatment with rest,
fluids, and pain relievers can help keep the child comfortable.
Fifth disease, although usually a mild illness in children, poses a
slight risk to developing fetuses. Pregnant women should avoid being exposed to
the disease if possible. If a pregnant woman is exposed to a child who has
fifth disease, or if she develops a rash like that caused by fifth disease, she
should contact her doctor.
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics