- What is Fifth’s disease?
- Fifth Disease Symptoms
- Fifth Disease in Adults
- Fifth Disease during Pregnancy
- Fifth Disease Treatment
What is Fifth’s disease?
This is an illness that is relatively mild which is caused by the virus known as “Human parvovirus B19”. The correct medical name for this illness is “Erythema Infectiosum” or EI. Normally this illness is seen in children of school age – between 5 to 14 years old during the winter and spring. Fifth’s disease creates a rash that is reddish and is located on the face of the child, making the face look as if the child was slapped on both cheek areas.
A few facts concerning this illness include:
- Caused by a virus that is spread by respiratory discharges passed on by sneezes and coughs
- Fifth’s disease occurs intermittently or as part of population outbreaks
- 50% of adults have had this infection during childhood and about 10 percent of kids are immune
- Individuals with this disease are infectious prior to the beginning of symptoms as well as are not infectious after the growth of the rash
- The name “fifth’s disease” appears from the fact that it is the 5th of the most common rashes in childhood – measles, German measles, chickenpox, and roseola and fifth’s disease
Fifth Disease Symptoms
Symptoms of this disease consist of:
- Nasal congestion and drainage
- Sore throat
- Aching muscles
- 7 to 10 days facial rash that is characteristic develop suddenly on cheeks
- Rash is bright red
- Rash fades in 4 days
- Pink rash develops on the arms
- Pink rash spreads to the buttocks, thighs and trunk
- Pink rash fades to a pattern that is lacelike – then clears completely
Fifth’s disease is a childhood illness that is mild and goes away on its own without any treatment. The symptoms resemble many other diseases. When in doubt, see your primary care physician for a diagnosis.
Fifth Disease in Adults
In adults as well as older teens, the rash may itch but these individuals with this rash will not look sick and usually will not develop a fever. Sunlight, exercise, heat as well as stress can re-activate the rash until it fades completely. Other symptoms that can often develop include:
- Glands that are swollen
- Eyes are red
- Sore throat
- Rarely, rash looks like bruises or blisters
In these cases with older teens and adults, fifth disease can be followed by joint pain or swelling, usually in the wrists, hands, ankles or knees.
Fifth Disease during Pregnancy
This disease can as well be transmitted in blood, so if a woman develops fifth disease during pregnancy, it can infect the baby by way of the placenta. In a very small percentage of cases, this infection can cause problems that can result in the loss of the baby. There is approximately a 50% chance that the woman has already had this infection and therefore has immunity to parvovirus, which means that there is very little risk of catching this infection as well as passing it on.
When the mother is not immune and contracts this disease while pregnant the baby will likely be fine. There is approximately a 1 in 3 chance that this disease will be passed thru the placenta to the infant but even among these babies, most do well and have no problems or indications of infection.
Sadly, this disease can be damaging to the evolving baby when/if the virus traverses the placenta in the expectant mother who has been exposed. Fetal death, fetal anemia as well as swelling, known as hydrops, as well as spontaneous miscarriage have all been seen. Transfusions for the fetus can be given to correct the fetal anemia and has been successful in reversing the anomalies with perfectly normal infants being born near or at term. Any complications usually take place weeks after the mother has been exposed. Ultrasounds every 2 weeks to look for any signs of fetal anemia hydrops need to be done for 2 months. If any indications of hydrops are found, a fetal transfusion can save the life of the baby. If the pregnant mother gets this disease, symptoms can include fever, rash as well as joint pain. But there can also be no symptoms at all so it is considered right to address a mere exposure.
If a pregnant woman is unsure of her immune status, she can help to protect herself from infection by:
- Washing hands thoroughly and often, particularly after coming in contact with any tissues used by children who could be infected.
- Not sharing utensils or drinking glasses with anyone who has or was exposed to this illness
If you are pregnant and believe that you have been exposed, call your primary care physician immediately. He/she can do a blood test which can tell whether or not the parvovirus is in the blood system. If the virus is there, the physician will know to monitor the mother fairly closely.
There is no vaccine or preventive medication available for fifth disease and there is very little that can be done to avoid being infected with the virus. Due to the fact that individuals are contagious prior to developing the characteristic rash of fifth disease, it is very difficult to evade exposure. But, if there is an outbreak in the work place, the expectant mother may choose to be clear of work until the outbreak has disappeared.
Fifth Disease Treatment
Care at home is aimed towards symptom relief. This includes:
- Drinking fluids
- Taking acetaminophen for instance Tylenol for fever. Avoid aspirin due to the risk of children with fever developing Reye syndrome.
- Wash hands frequently and take care not to spread the virus
- Give oatmeal baths when the rash is itching. A product called Aveeno is outstanding for this use and doesn’t clog the drain.
- Use lotions that are mild to help dismiss itching avoiding any with perfumes that can aggravate the skin more
- Keep the child away from the sun and excessive heat while the rash is present.
For healthy children, care for the symptoms at home is all that is necessary. Children need to limit their activities until they feel better.
By the time the illness is realized, the period of greatest risk for spreading the disease has passed. Parents need to use caution and fair judgment about when to send kids back to day care or school.