Slapped Cheek Syndrome(Fifth Disease) in Children – What is it, Symptoms and Tips to Prevent

6 min read

Written by Smita Srivastava

Smita Srivastava

A child suffering with slapped cheek syndrome

Small kids are prone to various infections. They fall sick and recover with or without external help. It is a cyclical process. Have you ever seen a kid with a red cheek like they have just been slapped? Does your child have a red rash on one or both of their cheeks without any apparent reason? Then they may be suffering from slapped cheek syndrome.

Children’s immune system is immature and is still learning to fight infections. Be it a virus or bacteria, it can severely affect some little ones while some can recover from it easily. If your child is suffering from slapped cheek syndrome, don’t worry. They will be alright soon. Here is everything you may want to know about this peculiar infection.

In This Article

What is Slapped Cheek Syndrome or Fifth Disease?

What is slapped cheek syndrome

The fifth disease is also known as erythema infectiosum. It is more commonly known as slapped cheek syndrome due to the red rash that appears on the cheek as if someone just slapped the person across the face. Fifth disease is one of the 6 common viral rashes in children. It usually affects children between the ages of 5 and 15.

Slapped cheek syndrome can affect adults too but is very rare and mostly affects young children. It is mostly a one-time infection, meaning if your body fights slapped cheek syndrome once, it will remember to fight it forever. So, if you were infected with the fifth disease as a child, you most likely are immune to it and it won’t affect you in adulthood.

It was the fifth viral skin rash known to affect children, hence is also referred to as the ‘fifth disease’.

Causes of Slapped Cheek Syndrome in Children

Parvovirus B19 causes slapped cheek syndrome. It is a highly contagious virus, which can spread by coming in contact with the body fluids of an infected person. It can spread through sneezes and coughs.

Symptoms of Slapped Cheek Syndrome

pictures of slapped cheek syndrome

Slapped cheek syndrome has symptoms very similar to any other viral infection. The usual symptoms to watch out for are-

  • A high fever
  • Runny nose and sore throat
  • Headache
  • Stomach upset
  • Red rash on one or both cheeks that resembles the aftermath of a slap

Some of the not-so-common symptoms are-

  • Swelling and joint pains
  • A second rash on the child’s arms, legs, body, or buttocks

Is Fifth Disease Contagious?

Yes, slapped cheek syndrome or fifth disease is highly contagious. It can spread by coming in contact with the body fluids of an infected person. One can contract the virus by touching the sneeze or cough droplets of the infected person.

Since it is more common among young children, it can spread faster. A child can be contagious up to 24 hours after they recover from the fever. After this, even if the rash persists, they are not contagious.

How is Fifth Disease Diagnosed?

Usually there is no test required for slapped cheek syndrome

The rashes, fever, and other symptoms may occur only 4 to 14 days after the infection. So, it can be difficult to diagnose the disease soon after infection.

The classic symptom that helps doctors diagnose is the red rash on the cheek in addition to regular flu-like symptoms. Doctors will diagnose by just examining the child and taking note of the symptoms. It does not require any other tests. Doctors may do a blood test in some rare cases, but, it is not a routine test.  

How is Fifth Disease Treated?

Doctors generally do not prescribe any medicines for fifth disease in children. It will subside on its own within a few days. In very severe cases, your doctor might prescribe simple over-the-counter medicines to relieve pain, swelling, or fever.

In very rare cases, if the child already has other complications, they may need close supervision and treatment in the hospital.

What Are the Complications?

Fifth disease usually does not cause any complications in children

The fifth disease is like any other viral infection and does not generally cause any complications in healthy children.

However, in rare cases, especially in children with a blood disorder or a weak immune system due to other underlying conditions, it can cause serious complications. It can affect the way the body makes red blood cells, thus causing a dip in the blood cell count. Sometimes, if the count drops too low, the child might need a blood transfusion.

[Read : Immune Boosters – Can They Help My Child Recover From a Bad Viral Fever?]

Tips to Prevent Slapped Cheek Disease in Children

Tell your kids to use handkerchief

Slapped cheek syndrome does not show any visible symptoms until 2 weeks after infection. It usually starts with a fever and the rash develops alongside. In most cases, it is very difficult to know if the child has the fifth disease and can be contagious until the rash appears. So, following basic rules of hygiene and safety for children is the best way to prevent this disease from spreading.

The following tips can help you keep your child safe from slapped cheek syndrome and other such contagious infections-

  • Ask children to always carry a handkerchief and teach them how to use it while coughing and sneezing
  • Ask them to frequently wash their hands with soap and water, especially before eating
  • Teach them to discard dirty tissues in the dustbins and not leave them around for others to touch
  • Keep them at home if they are sick. It can be just a harmless cold today but it can affect another child tomorrow
  • Include nutritious foods in their regular diet. Ensure nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are a part of their regular diet
  • Encourage them to play outdoors to improve their immunity
  • Do not let your child miss any vaccinations. If you do miss it, fix an appointment with the doctor and get the vaccination at the earliest
  • If they have a fever, give them a lot of fluids and let them rest at home
  • Though it is normal for children to fall sick frequently, do not ignore any symptoms. Keep a close watch and consult a doctor as and when necessary
  • If you discover your child has slapped cheek syndrome, inform the school or other places they frequent, immediately. The people in charge can warn other parents, who can watch out for symptoms in their children

[Read : Guide To Compulsory & Optional Vaccines For Babies]

When to See a Doctor For Slapped Cheek Syndrome?

Consult doctor if symptoms seem to be getting worse

If your child is too young, it is better to consult a doctor right away, when they have a fever or other symptoms. You should take your child to a doctor immediately if you notice the following-

  • Your child is finding it difficult to breathe
  • They are very tired and show signs of extreme fatigue
  • Your child faints or becomes unconscious
  • Your child’s skin turns very pale

Slapped cheek syndrome, though not commonly heard of, is not a disease to worry about. It is a communicable disease that can spread easily among young children. Proper care as per doctor’s instructions and a few days is all a child needs to recover from this infection. It is very similar to a child catching a viral fever or a cold.


1. How Long Does Slapped Cheek Last in Kids?

The symptoms can take between 4 and 15 days to appear. Once the fever and rash appear, they can last up to 2 or 4 days. Once the child feels better, they are clear of the virus. Overall, slapped cheek syndrome can last for about 10 days once symptoms appear.

2. Does Fifth Disease go Away on Its Own?

Yes, in most cases it goes away on its own. In case of complications which is very rare, the doctor will prescribe appropriate treatment or medications.

Read Also: Importance of Influenza Vaccine for Children Pre-Monsoon During COVID Times

Smita Srivastava, Bachelors (BA) in Mass Media and Mass Communication from Delhi University
Masters (MA) in Mass Media and Mass Communication from Kurukshetra University

With a background in Mass media and journalism, Smita comes with rich and vast experience in content creation, curation, and editing. As a mom of a baby girl, she is an excellent candidate for writing and editing parenting and pregnancy content. The content she writes and edits is influenced by her own journey through pregnancy and motherhood. When not writing- She can be found curled up with a book. Or, bingeing on Netflix.Read more.

Responses (0)

Please check a captcha

Want curated content sharply tailored for your exact stage of parenting?

Discover great local businesses around you for your kids.

Get regular updates, great recommendations and other right stuff at the right time.


Our site uses cookies to make your experience on this site even better. We hope you think that is sweet.