As responsible parents, we need to make sure that we have a thorough understanding of all the possible illnesses and infections that might be a cause for concern for our little ones. And while we tend to take note of rather common issues like fever, cold, rashes, infections, measles, chicken pox, polio etc., very often we miss out on certain illnesses that although are not that harmful, can be quite troublesome as well.
The Fifth Disease (also called erythema infection) happens to be one such medical illness that usually affects children between the ages of 5 and 14 years. The illness is caused by virus commonly called as the human parvovirus B19 and occurs mainly during summers and winters.
FYIs about Fifth Disease
Fifth Disease also has another name, thanks to its specific signature symptom of a reddish rash that spreads all over the cheeks. The illness is also called as the slapped cheek syndrome. If you are wondering as to how the term Fifth Disease came into being, here’s a pointer. Several decades ago, when the medical classification was put into effect, the most common rashes that occur in childhood were classified into five groups. These included measles, chickenpox, German measles, roseola and parovirus B19 infection. And so came the name, the Fifth Disease.
Fifth Disease like measles and chickenpox does not affect a person twice (in most cases). Individuals who have already suffered from the infection once face less chances of contracting the same later. The same goes for kids who tend to develop an immunity to the illness once they are affected by it. The illness is more contagious before its onset when compared to after its outbreak. Usually it takes anywhere between 4 and 14 days to develop the symptoms after the onset of the infection.
How the virus spreads
The Fifth Disease is prevalent in school going children who normally catch the virus from infected kids at school. And like flu, the virus is extremely contagious and spreads to everyone nearby in no time. Common carriers for the same are air and blood droplets, both of which contain viral DNA particles that can spread infection.
Symptoms you need to look out for
As mentioned before, the symptoms of Fifth Disease start occuring days after the onset of the illness. In such cases, the issue may be easily neglected, mistaken for something else or brushed off as being too mild to bother about.
Some of the initial signs that might act as warning signals include constant head aches, sore throat, fever, runny nose, fatigue and body pain. After a few days, a bright red rash appears over the face (like someone slapped the cheeks) and several lacelike rashes (lighter in color) appear all over the body, mainly on the thighs, buttocks and trunk. These rashes usually disappear within 5 days of appearing on the body.
After the onset of rashes, an individual may feel joint and muscle pains (followed by swelling) which would mostly center on the hands, knees, wrists and ankles. In certain cases, it has been found out that Fifth Disease and the virus that causes the same can cause harm to the foetus in the womb if the mother contracts the illness.
When to go for a professional’s advice
Fifth Disease and its symptoms, mostly the initial ones, are frequently misinterpreted as colds and other minor illnesses. Many individuals even fail to diagnose the issue until the characteristic ‘slapped cheek’ rash appears on the face. While Fifth Disease is a minor illness that usually does not need any medical treatment, and tends to just disappear in a few days; the side affects that accompany the illness warrant a doctor’s inspection.
Appropriate Treatment for Fifth Disease
Fifth Disease is not an infection or disease that can be taken care of by medications, injections or vaccinations. Rather, home care and treatment is the best known remedy for the illness which genreally fades away on its own after a few weeks. Bed rest is recommended for children suffering from Fifth Disease. Prescribed pain relievers and fluids can be given to alleviate side affects like fever and body pain. For example, you can take medications like Tylenol (contains acetaminophen) to contain the fever. However, aspirin can cause an unnecessary side effect called Reye syndrome and needs to be avoided at all costs.
Over the counter medications are not considered wise and need to be checked with a physican before usage. Complications are rare and parents do not need to worry about the rashes causing permanent scars in the future. Sometimes the rashes do reapper on the skin even after the symptoms of the illness abate. This does not mean that your child might be suffering from reinfestation, or may be worsening. These rashes may reappear due to other reasons like stress, warm temperature or over exposure to the sun.
Precautions that need to be followed
Once your child (or anyone else in the house for that matter) has been diagnosed with Fifth Disease, you need to make sure that you contain the illness and prevent it from spreading to other people in the house. And one way to do that is to practise proper hygiene at home. This would essentially involve washing your hands regularly, throwing away used tissues and keeping the house clean (including common rooms and washrooms).
It would be better if you could isolate your kid to a particular section of the house until his/her illness fades away. Restrict his/her activities (both indoor and outdoor) until the symptoms abate. It is recommeded to keep your kid away from school until he/she feels better.
However, as mentioned above, the risk of contamination decreases by the time the illness is diagnosed. And so, you would probably want to send your kid to school after the rashes disappear. Pregnant women who face greater risks of contracting harmful side effects from Fifth Disease should undergo a routine checkup with their doctor and note down possible preventive measures to stay safe from the illness (in case someone else has it at home).
Photo Credit: Mothersinmedicine.com