Understanding Fifth Disease -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Fifth Disease?

The symptoms of fifth disease include:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Bright red cheeks
  • A flat or raised red rash, usually on the arms and legs, which lasts from two 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.
  • Less commonly, headache, sore throat, and joint pain

Not all children with fifth disease develop the rash. Some will have a rash that lasts several weeks or changes with environmental triggers like those mentioned above. Both are normal.

The following symptoms are more frequent and more severe in adults with parvovirus B19 infections, and they generally precede the rash, which often does not occur in adults, by seven to 10 days:

Most fetuses are unaffected when their mothers contract the virus, and it has not been proven to cause birth defects. However, if a fetus becomes infected, the virus can disrupt the fetus's ability to produce red blood cells, leading to a dangerous form of anemia, heart failure, and sometimes miscarriage or stillbirth. A woman who contracts the virus while pregnant has about a 10% chance of miscarriage.

Call Your Doctor About Fifth Disease if:

  • 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 five weeks.
  • Your infected child looks or acts very ill.


WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 23, 2019


SOURCES: American Academy of Pediatrics. 2003 Red Book Report on the Committee of Infectious Diseases (American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infections Diseases//Report of the Committee on Infections Diseases)

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