Written by Smita Srivastava
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
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’.
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.
Slapped cheek syndrome has symptoms very similar to any other viral infection. The usual symptoms to watch out for are-
Some of the not-so-common symptoms are-
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.
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.
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.
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.
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-
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-
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.
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.
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.
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.