Everything About Fifth Disease: Parvovirus B19

Fifth disease is a common disease or illness seen more often in children and adults.

It is a condition that can cause a rash along with cold or flu-like symptoms.

Fifth disease is usually mild and not dangerous to those in a good health.

However, it can be sever for children and adults with certain health conditions, or for pregnant women.

So, if you or any of your family members have shown these kinds of symptoms, you should read this article.

Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms, treatments, complications, and prevention of fifth disease.

What is Fifth Disease?

Fifth disease also known as Erythema Infectiosum which usually gentle childhood condition characterized by a classic slapped-cheek appearance.

This disease is believed to be primarily transmitted by the respiratory route or Parvovirus B19.

A person usually gets sick with fifth disease within four to fourteen days after getting infected with parvovirus B19.

Fifth disease got its name because it was fifth in a list of historical classifications of common skin rash illness in children.

The other four are measles, scarlet fever, rubella, and dukes’ disease. There is also a sixth disease known as roseola.

How Does It Spreads?


From Person to Person Through Contact

Fifth disease can easily spread by shaking hands with someone with the virus after they touch their nose or mouth.

Similarly, touching a surface that someone with fifth disease just touched after touching their nose or mouth can also spread this disease.

Through Respiratory Droplets

Fifth disease can also be spread when a person breaths in the virus after someone near sneezes or coughs.

This disease is very contagious which can spread very quickly and easily.

Through Blood

Fifth disease can also spread during pregnancy from a mother to her baby.

Similarly, this disease can also spread from medical procedures such as the transfusion of blood.

Or even from blood products or organ and bone marrow transplants.

Symptoms of Fifth Disease

While some people do not show any signs of illness, most people who get parvovirus B19 have mild symptoms.

The symptoms of fifth disease are often the same as a cold or the flu.

There are two major symptoms of fifth disease which includes:


There is a characteristic rash that can help doctors tell the difference between fifth disease and other viral illness.

Usually, the rash starts on the face, causing bright red cheeks that look like they have been slapped.

Later, it may move on to cover the body, arms, and legs too.

The rash may be itchy and it can have a lace-like or web-like pattern as it gets fade away.

However, this symptom can last for weeks, especially with exposure to heat or the sun.

This fifth disease symptom is more likely to be seen in children from four to ten years old.

However, it can even be seen in older children and adults, yet is less noticeable.

Joint Pain

Fifth disease is most likely to cause pain in the joints of the hands, wrist, feet, ankles, and knees.

Also, there may be certain amount of swelling, and it can feel similar to arthritis.

This fifth disease symptom either last of a week or two, or can continue for months.

The symptom of joint pain is more common in adults rather than the children.

The other symptoms of fifth disease includes:

  • Fever
  • A headache
  • Stuffy nose
  • Running nose
  • A sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Swollen glands

Course of Illness of Fifth Disease

Once you come in contact with the human parvovirus, it can take anywhere from four days to two weeks or a month.

When you get infected by parvovirus B19, the symptom of rashes doesn’t show up right away.

It can take up to three weeks to appear, first in the face, and then on the whole body.

This symptom of fifth disease can last for two weeks or more than a month sometimes.

However, once you know that this virus is no longer contagious, you can move back to normal life.

Usually, fifth disease is seen lasting for about tentatively ten days.

However, it can continue for more weeks depending on your health and immune system.

Healthy children and adults do not have any long-term problems after getting better.

Plus, once you get the virus and recover your body builds up antibodies to fight it off.

Diagnosis of Fifth Disease

Most often children and adults who get fifth disease do not know what’s going on in their body.

It is often passed off as a typical cold or viral infection so many do not notice it.

Similarly, most people even neglect fifth disease thinking it can common cold, especially if they don’t have rashes.

However, if you do seek for medical help, your doctor can diagnosis fifth disease through physical examinations and blood work.

A blood test is extremely necessary if you’re pregnant or if you, your child, or a family member have sever health conditions.

Complications of Fifth Disease

Fifth disease is usually mild for children and adults who are otherwise healthy.

But for some people fifth disease can cause serious health complications.

The complications of fifth disease may include chronic anemia that requires medical treatment.

Similarly, if you have weaker immune system caused by any diseases, you may be at risk for serious complications of fifth disease.

Fifth disease can cause the body to stop making red blood cells.

This can lead to severe anemia or worsening anemia in those with iron deficiency anemia, thalassemia, or sickle cell.

It can also be dangerous for a growing baby during pregnancy.

Coping Tips of Fifth Disease

There’s not too much you can do about fifth disease except seeking for doctor’s help.

However, there are some small tips you can apply daily so that fifth disease doesn’t become sever.

Drinking plenty of fluids is always helpful not only for fifth disease but for any kind of diseases.

It keeps your body hydrated and fresh for longer period of time. Hence, you can use this as an option.

Also, let the body get enough rest so it can use its energy to fight off the illness.

If you think about the rashes too much, you would likely start to scratch your whole body.

Therefore, when not resting, you can keep yourself or your child from doing indoor activities and not expose to sun at all.

Treatment of Fifth Disease

Fifth disease is usually mild and go away on its own.

Children and adults who are healthy recover quickly.

Treatment of fifth disease usually involves relieving symptoms, such as fever, itching, and joint paint.

However, you are not allowed to take any antibiotic when having fifth disease.

That’s because fifth disease kill bacteria, not viruses.

Hence, consulting with doctor is quite necessary to not get infected by fifth disease.

The doctor’s treatment of fifth disease may include the followings:

  • Tylenol for fever or joint discomfort
  • An antihistamine such as Benadryl for the rash
  • Rest
  • Restriction of activity until feeling better

Prevention of Fifth Disease

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or medicine that can prevent parvovirus B19 infection.

However, you can reduce your chance of being infected or infecting others by:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water
  • Using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available
  • Keeping the immune system healthy through eating right, and drinking plenty of fluids
  • Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • Not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Avoiding close eye contact with people who are sick
  • Staying home when you are sick
  • Avoiding other people especially pregnant women

When To Call The Doctor

You generally do not need to call the doctor for a mild illness.

However, you should contact the doctor immediately if:

  • You have a newborn or young infant with a temperature over 100.4 F or symptoms of illness
  • Older child has a fever over 102
  • The symptoms of fifth disease are getting worse
  • You or your family members have a weak immune system or sever health conditions
  • Having fever or rashes in your body while being pregnant