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Fifth Disease ("Slapped Cheek"): Contagious continued...

How it spreads. Parvovirus B19, which causes fifth disease, is spread through saliva, sputum, and nasal mucus.

Prevention. Fifth disease is most contagious in the "stuffy nose" phase, before the rash begins, so it is difficult to prevent. Your child's best defense is to avoid contact with children who are coughing and sneezing. Frequent hand washing -- especially before touching their eyes, nose, or mouth – also helps.

Treatment. Fifth disease is usually mild and requires no treatment other than rest. If needed, acetaminophen or anti-itch medication may help relieve symptoms. However, parvovirus B19 can cause serious complications in people with a weakened immune system or chronic anemia, or in women who are pregnant. Then it's important to see a doctor.

Eczema: Not Contagious

Eczema, or "atopic dermatitis," affects about one in 10 babies and children. Symptoms can begin before a child's first birthday and almost always by age 5. Eczema begins as an itchy rash on the face, elbows, or knees that may spread to other areas including the scalp and behind the ears. The rash may get better and even go away at times, but it keeps coming back.

Cause. Genes and environmental factors -- such as foods, pollen, dust, animal dander -- are believed to cause eczema. Kids with eczema have an increased risk of having allergies and asthma.

Prevention. You can't keep your child from getting eczema, but you can help prevent it from flaring. Dry skin is a trigger, so moisturize your child's skin often, especially after baths. Have her wear soft clothes in fabrics that "breathe" such as cotton. Avoid perfumed soaps or lotions as well as bubble baths because they can irritate the skin. Recognize signs of skin infection and treat them early.

Treatment. Cool baths can help relieve itching. Your child's doctor may have other advice and prescribe treatment, if necessary. This may include corticosteroid creams or ointments, topical medications, tar preparations, antihistamines to relieve itching, and oral or topical antibiotics for infections that can accompany flares.

Ear infection: Not Contagious

Most children have at least one middle ear infection by age 2. Colds or allergies can cause bacteria to grow in a child's middle ear, blocking the eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the throat. This may cause pain, fever, and sometimes, difficulty hearing.

Cause. Although children can't catch ear infections from other children, they can catch colds, which make ear infections more likely.

Prevention. To reduce the risk of ear infections, help your child keep a healthy distance from people who are sick, and wash his hands frequently. Avoid exposing him to cigarette smoke, which can increase the risk of ear infection. And do not let him drink bottles while lying down.

Treatment. If your child has pain and fever from an ear infection, give acetaminophen to make him comfortable and see a doctor. He may need antibiotics, although many ear infections go away on their own in children older than 2 years of age. Most ear infection symptoms go away in a few days after antibiotics are started.

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