Fifth Disease: Brief Version

What is fifth disease?

A virus causes fifth disease. Your child has fifth disease if:

  • Your child has a bright red or rosy rash on both cheeks for 1 to 3 days. It looks like the cheeks have been slapped.
  • After the rash on the cheeks, you see a pink lacelike or netlike rash on the arms and legs. This is mostly on the thighs and upper arms.
  • The lace-like rash comes and goes several times for 1 to 3 weeks.
  • Your child has a low-grade fever or no fever at all.

How can I take care of my child?

You don't really need to do anything. The rash is harmless. There is no itching, pain, or other problems.

  • Make sure your child does not spread the disease to others. Children who have been around fifth disease come down with the rash in 10 to 14 days. Your child can spread the disease to others during the week before you see the rash. Make sure your child stays away from others if you know your child has been around someone with fifth disease. Once a child has the rash, he or she can no longer spread the disease. The child does not need to stay home from day care or school.
  • This disease can be a problem to pregnant women. If your child has been around a pregnant woman, tell her to see her doctor. If she has not had the disease before, she may need special care. Fifth disease can cause problems for the unborn baby.

Call your child's doctor during office hours if:

  • Your child gets a fever.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick”, American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 1999-04-07
Last reviewed: 2011-06-06
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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