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Fifth Disease Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 14, 2020

What Are the Symptoms of Fifth Disease?

Fifth disease is an illness caused by the parvovirus B19. In children, symptoms of fifth disease often start out like a cold. Then, within 7 to 10 days, a rash usually develops. Common symptoms of fifth disease include:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Headache
  • Bright red cheeks
  • A flat or raised red rash, usually on the arms and legs, which lasts from 2 to 39 days and may itch; the rash fades from the center of red areas toward the edges, giving it a lacy appearance. The rash can recur with exercise, warm baths, rubbing the skin, or emotional upset.

Not all children with fifth disease get the rash. Some will have a rash that lasts several weeks or changes with environmental triggers.

It’s less common, but some kids also have:

Adults usually don’t get a rash, but they do tend to get more serious flu-like symptoms, including:

If you’re pregnant and think you may have the virus, call your doctor. Babies in utero don’t usually get the virus if their mother has it, and it hasn’t been shown to cause birth defects. However, if a fetus does becomes infected, the virus can disrupt it’s ability to produce red blood cells, leading to a dangerous form of anemia, heart failure, and sometimes miscarriage or stillbirth. A woman who gets the virus while pregnant has about a 10% chance of miscarriage.

When to Call Your Doctor About Fifth Disease

  • Your child has sickle cell anemia, any other chronic anemia, or an impaired immune system and has been exposed to fifth disease or is exhibiting symptoms.
  • You are pregnant, you do not know whether you are immune to parvovirus B19 (or know that you are not immune), and you come into contact with anyone who has an infection with parvovirus B19.
  • The rash becomes purple, painful, blistered, or lasts longer than 5 weeks.
  • Your infected child looks or acts very ill.
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Pediatrics. 2003 Red Book Report on the Committee of Infectious Diseases (American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases/Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases), “Fifth Disease (Parvovirus B19).”

KidsHealth: “Fifth Disease.”

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