Fifth Disease in Kids

A girl with red cheeks due to Fifth disease in Austin, Texas.

A bright red rash on your child’s face could be a sign of Fifth disease, especially if it followed a period of cold-like symptoms with fever. Continue reading to learn what Fifth disease is, its symptoms, and its causes. We will also discuss how you can prevent it and the treatment options.

If you suspect your child may be experiencing symptoms of Fifth Disease or if you have concerns about their health, feel free to call Pediatric Associates of Austin today! Our expert doctors in Austin, Texas are on hand to provide reliable guidance and quality care to ensure your child’s well-being.

What is Fifth Disease?

Fifth disease (scientifically known as erythema infectiosum) is a viral infection that predominantly affects children between the ages of 5 and 15. Most kids recover from the infection quickly without any complications.

Fifth disease is often recognized by a distinctive bright red rash on a child’s cheeks and is often referred to as “slapped cheek” disease. The rash will then spread down to the trunk, arms, and legs a few days later. The rash can then last from 1 to 3 weeks.

Fifth Disease Symptoms

When your child first gets Fifth disease, they may experience the following symptoms:

  • Low fever 
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache


As these symptoms clear up, a rash will usually appear a few days later. The rash is more likely to occur in kids younger than 10. The rash then spreads to the chest, back, legs, and arms. The rash appears like a lacy net after a few days.

Older kids and adults may not have a red rash on their cheeks. However, they may experience joint swelling and pain. These symptoms usually go away without further problems.

What Causes Fifth Disease

Fifth disease is caused by parvovirus B19. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the virus within the respiratory droplets lands on surfaces that can be picked up by another child. A child is only infectious when they have cold-like symptoms. By the time the rash has appeared, they are not contagious anymore.

What Problems Can Fifth Disease Cause?

You may experience further problems with Fifth disease if your child has a weak immune system or a blood disorder.

In some people, the Parvovirus B19 can temporarily slow or stop the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells (RBCs). When this happens, your child may get acute severe anemia, which may require hospital treatment. Your child may have severe anemia if they are pale, dizzy, or drowsy.

How is Fifth Disease Diagnosed?

Fifth disease is usually identified through the red rash on the face or body. If there are symptoms with no rash, then blood tests will be needed to see if the human parvovirus B19 is causing them.

How to Prevent Fifth Disease

The best way for your child to avoid catching Fifth disease is by frequent hand washing. Encourage your child to wash their hands before meals and before touching their face.

Usually, your child will have a built-up immunity to Fifth disease if they had it previously and will not get it again. There is no vaccine against Fifth disease.

How is Fifth Disease Treated?

Fifth disease is a mild illness that usually clears up on its own without the need for treatment. It cannot be treated by antibiotics, as it is a viral illness and antibiotics only work against bacterial infections.

Most kids manage the symptoms well and just need some rest. You may just need to treat the rash for some discomfort. Your doctor can recommend what medication to use for your child’s rash.

If your child has a fever or joint pain, your doctor may recommend acetaminophen. Aspirin should not be used. It’s important not to give your child aspirin as it has been linked to Reye syndrome when given to children who have a viral infection.

Usually, kids with Fifth disease feel okay and just need to rest. After the fever and mild cold symptoms are gone, there may be little to treat except any discomfort from the rash.

When to Call a Doctor

You should call your child’s healthcare provider if your child develops a widespread rash along with a fever, cold symptoms, or joint pain.

Schedule an Appointment Today

If you have any questions, notice concerning symptoms, or simply want to schedule a routine check-up, reach out to Pediatric Associates of Austin today! Our experienced team of specialists in Austin, TX is committed to providing comprehensive care for your child’s well-being. Schedule an appointment now to ensure your child receives the attention and care they deserve.


PAA Advance Practice Providers

Our PAA APP’s include: Amber Mercer, Annie Croft, Bridget Shen, Brooke Gonzalez, Caitlin Whiteman, Courtney Dudley, Emily Woodard, Emma McCarty, Erin Moore, Keena Chung, Lauren Karnesky, and Pam Dietrich