Fifth Disease

Also known as: erythema infectiosum, parvovirus B19 infection, “slapped cheek” disease.

What is fifth disease?

Fifth disease is a mildly/moderately contagious viral infection spread by respiratory droplets (from an infected person coughing or sneezing) that presents as a red rash, commonly in school aged (5-15 years of age) children, usually in the spring and winter.

It’s called “Fifth disease” because it was 5th on the list of 6 recognizable childhood rashes.


What causes fifth disease? 

A virus known as parvovirus B19 causes fifth disease.

What are the symptoms of fifth disease?

After 4-14 days of exposure, initial symptoms include mild fever, a runny nose, and headache. After a few days, a red rash usually appears first on the cheek (“slapped cheek”) and then spreads to the chest, buttocks, or legs and arms. The rash may be itchy especially on the soles of the feet.

After 7-10 days it usually starts to disappear but can come and go for a few weeks. Sometimes, usually in adults, the joints of the hands/knees may be painful.

What are fifth disease care options?

Fifth disease is usually mild and resolves on its own without treatment, with full recovery. Symptomatic treatments with over-the-counter pain/temperature relievers and creams can be used to relieve itching, fever or pain.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: November 18, 2021 11:26 AM

Infectious Diseases

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