Have you ever heard of the fifth disease? Does it sound strange? Well, there is a disease known as the fifth disease. Although it is rare these days, however, it is very deadly if not diagnosed on time. Let’s get to know what the fifth disease is all about.

The fifth disease is a rare viral disease that usually results in a red rash, which can be found on the arms, on the legs and the cheeks. Another name for this disease is known as slapped cheek disease, and this is because of its appearance on the cheeks.

For children, it is most commonly seen, and it can be very mild without serious complications. However, for pregnant women as well as those who have severely compromised immune systems, this disease can be very severe, and it can likewise lead to severe complications in the pregnancy, and if not treated, it can cause death.

Fifth disease is caused by Parvovirus B19. This virus is an airborne virus, and it tends to spread very quickly through the saliva from the mouth as well as respiratory snorts from children in pre-school.

Usually, fifth disease usually occurs during the winter, spring as well as early summer. Although this doesn’t limit when it spreads, as it can spread among any people of any age and race as well as it can also spread any time, hence everyone is susceptible.

If you have been exposed as a child to this disease, you will develop some specific kinds of antibodies which will prevent you from contracting that disease in adulthood. However, if you were not exposed to it as a child when you develop it as an adult, there will be so many complications and the symptoms will be very severe.

For pregnant women, getting the fifth disease is very harmful to both you and your unborn baby; most especially your unborn child as it can cause the shortage of blood (anaemia) which can be life-threatening. Other risks also asides anaemia can develop causing symptoms which are mostly always severe.

Symptoms of fifth disease

Fifth disease

The symptoms of the fifth disease can be classified into two stages known as the initial or mild stage and the 2nd or complicated stage.

While the disease is still at the initial stage, the symptoms that will be experienced by the patient will be mild and may even resemble the signs of the flu. Symptoms may include headaches, chills, fatigue, fever, sore throats, running nose that starts as mild, as well as the stuffy nose.

However, when this disease hits he late stage, the symptoms may skyrocket to become very severe especially for those with compromised immune systems. According to a research that was carried out by the American Academy of family physicians, symptoms appear after 14 days of the person’s initial exposure to it.

After some days of initial exposure, the person will develop a rash at first on the cheeks. Then after a while especially after a few days, it can spread to the arms, legs and the trunk. It mostly lasts for some weeks before it eventually disappears, but at this time, the person is no longer contagious.

Children are always most likely to experience this rash rather than adults. For adults, the very first symptom they may be experiencing is joint pain which can last for more than a few weeks and its more prominent in the joints present at the knee, ankle and wrists.


Complications from this disease are rare. However, they most likely occur to the foetus in the uterus of pregnant women. Women who have been infected with the virus that causes the fifth disease can have a miscarriage most especially when the embryo becomes swollen in a severe condition known as hydrops fetalis.

For those who have a weakened immune system, there are several complications that can come along with this disease.

Those who have cancers and are undergoing chemotherapy, those who have been infected with HIV, or those who are taking immunosuppressants or antidepressants are also at considerable risk of having lots of complications.


For all those who are healthy and don’t have a weakened immune system, medications are usually not necessary, however, for the joint pains, or in a case where you have headaches, the patient is advised to take acetaminophen for relief.

Some doctors may even encourage you to wait it out, and this takes a period of one- three weeks typically.

Also for those having the fifth disease, it is highly recommended that they take in lots of fluids as well as getting lots of rest and sleep. For kids, once the red rash appears, it signifies that they are no longer contagious hence they can be allowed to return to school.

Long-term consequences

For healthy people, after the disease resolves itself, there are no long-term consequences. However, for those who have a suppressed immune system from either chemotherapy treatment or taking immunosuppressants, or other conditions, the person might need to be under the doctors’ supervision.

Also, for those who have problems with their blood, this might indeed be a severe disease they need to fight through.

This is because this disease can hinder the production of Red Blood Cells hence reducing the amount of oxygen your body tissues are supposed to receive. This can lead to cell death. It is often seen with those who have sickle cell anaemia.

As a pregnant woman, having this disease can cause anaemia in your body, and the child might need the blood transfusion. Other complications that may result in pregnancy is stillbirth, miscarriage and heart failure.


To prevent this disease, since it spreads from one person to another via airborne secretions, then one must try to reduce contact with those who are sneezing, coughing or maybe blowing their noses. One must always work to as frequently as possible, wash his or her hands always.