Fifth disease is a viral disease that is most common in school-aged children, but adults can also get it. Children often get a blighted rash on the cheeks which can also spread to the arms and legs. The disease goes away by itself.

What is the Fifth Illness?

Before the general vaccination program was introduced, almost all children had six different viral diseases that cause a rash, so-called dot diseases. The diseases were numbered and the Fifth disease was then number five.

Fifth illness is usually mild and everyone who gets infected gets no symptoms. Therefore, many people have had Fifth Sickness without knowing it. If you have had the disease you become immune, that is, you cannot get it again.

Symptoms of fifth illness in children

The fifth illness usually starts with the child getting a fever and feeling tired. The following symptoms of fifth disease are also common:

  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • diarrhea

After a few days, the child usually gets a rash on the cheeks that can spread to the body, especially to the outside of the arms and legs. When the rash comes, the fever usually disappears.

The rash can feel hot and itchy. They usually stay for about a week, but sometimes they can stay for months. The trouble can be worse if the child is stressed, exerted physically or in sunlight and heat.

Other diseases that can cause rash

It can be difficult to know exactly what the results are when they first appear. There are several diseases in children that can cause rashes, such as autumn blisters , swine, or measles . Children can also suffer from, for example, allergies. In our image guide you can see pictures and read more about different rashes and skin changes in children.

Symptoms of fifth illness in adults

Adults often experience symptoms reminiscent of a cold, such as fever and respiratory distress. It is unusual for adults to have a rash. However, adults often get hurt in the body, especially in the hands, elbows, knees or wrists. The pain can last for several months.

When and where should I seek care?

Most people with Fifth Sickness do not need to seek care. The trouble usually goes by itself.

Contact a midwife if you are pregnant and think you have Fifth Illness.

Contact a health care center if you have a compromised immune system or a blood disease and suspect you have had the fifth disease. You can contact many receptions by logging in .

What can I do for myself?

You can try bathing with cold water on the rash if they sting or itch. At the pharmacy there is a cooling conditioner or gel that can help.

To reduce pain and fever in a child, you can use non-prescription drugs containing paracetamol. From the age of six months, children can also receive medicines containing ibuprofen.

Even as an adult, you can use these medicines if you are in pain or have a fever.

This is how the Fifth Disease infects

The fifth disease is transmitted through the droplets that spread when, for example, someone coughs or sneezes. It takes between one to three weeks after you become infected until you get sick. The virus spreads most before you know you are infected. When the rash in children comes, they do not infect as much.

Fifth illness is most common in late winter and into summer. About every three to six years, epidemics occur, as more than usual are infected by the disease.

So you can reduce the risk of getting infected

Washing your hands frequently with soap and water can reduce the risk of infection. You should not use the same cutlery as the sick one or brush your mouth.

There is no vaccine for the fifth disease.

Should the child stay at home?

The child should stay at home if they have a fever or feel otherwise. A child with Fifth Illness can go back to preschool or school when they have been fever-free for a day, even if the rash remains. The child should be able to be in a children’s group all day and be able to participate in the usual activities.

What happens in the body?

Fifth disease is caused by parvovirus B19. The Parvovirus B19 virus causes temporary red blood cell formation in the body. It usually goes quickly and most people have no consequences.

Fifth illness and pregnancy

There is a risk that a baby in the uterus will become infected if you get a fifth illness when you are pregnant. The child may then have anemia in the womb or as a newborn. The infection does not lead to malformations.

You may have a blood test if you are pregnant and suspect you have a fifth illness. If the test shows that you have the fifth disease, you will be examined with ultrasound to see how the baby is feeling. You can then come up with close examinations to check the baby’s growth and heartbeat.

Some may have severe anemia

Fifth illness can cause serious anemia in people who have some unusual blood disorders. Even people who have a reduced immune system due to, for example, cancer treatment or HIV, are at risk of severe anemia. 

Ehtisham Nadeem

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