Should Your Child See a Doctor?

Fifth Disease

Is this your child's symptom?

  • Fifth disease is a rash that starts with red cheeks
  • Then it spreads to the shoulders and upper thighs
  • Caused by a virus

Symptoms of Fifth Disease

  • Bright red cheeks on both sides for 1 to 3 days. Looks like "slapped cheeks".
  • Followed by pink "lace-like" net-like rash of arms and legs.
  • "Lacy" rash mainly is on thighs and upper arms/shoulders.
  • Rash also is on chest and stomach in 50% of children.
  • The rash does not itch or hurt.
  • No fever or low-grade one less than 102° F (39° C).
  • Peak age: 4 -12 years.

Cause of Fifth Disease

  • It is caused by the human parvovirus B19.
  • Not related to the dog parvovirus.

Prevent Spread to Others

  • Good hand washing can prevent spread of this illness.
  • Once the rash occurs, the child can no longer spread the virus.

When to Call for Fifth Disease

Call 911 Now

  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Only 1 cheek is red and also has fever
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Fever over 102° F (39° C)
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Sore throat present more than 48 hours
  • Mother or other caregiver is pregnant
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Fifth disease suspected

Estimated Urgent Care Wait Times

These are estimated wait times for each Urgent Care clinic. Wait times are typically longest during the first hour we are open and may not be reflected immediately in the online wait time. Traffic and wait times may be affected by local events or bridge closures. Please check current traffic conditions and advisory alerts on the Seattle Department of Transportation website

Wait times may also vary depending on the severity of the illnesses we are treating. If your child’s illness or injury is life-threating, call 911.

Care Advice for Fifth Disease

  1. What You Should Know About Fifth Disease:
    • It is a viral rash that is harmless.
    • It does not itch or hurt.
    • It can be treated at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Fever Medicine:
    • For fevers above 102° F (39° C), give an acetaminophen product such as Tylenol.
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product such as Advil.
    • Note: Fevers less than 102° F (39° C) are important for fighting infections.
    • For all fevers: Keep your child well hydrated. Give lots of cold fluids.
  3. Pregnant Women - Special Risk:
    • The risk of Fifth disease is to the unborn babies of pregnant women. It is not harmful to the woman herself.
    • A pregnant woman should see her doctor if she is exposed.
    • He will do a test to see if the mother has had the disease. If she has, she is protected.
    • If not, the pregnancy will need to be watched closely. Some babies that get it before birth can have problems. Ten percent can have a very low red blood cell count and 2 % may die.
    • But, birth defects are never a result of this virus.
  4. What to Expect:
    • The lace-like rash can come and go for 1 to 3 weeks.
  5. Return to School:
    • Once your child has the "slapped cheeks", they can no longer spread the illness. Also, the lacy rash cannot be spread to others either.
    • Your child does not need to stay home from child care or school.
    • It can be spread during the week before the rash begins.
    • Exposed children should try not to have any contact with pregnant women. This may be hard to know ahead of time.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Fever above 102° F (39° C) occurs
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Last Reviewed: 10/20/2014

Last Revised: 10/20/2014

Copyright 1994-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.