Although this is a common childhood illness, many parents are not familiar with Fifth Disease and its symptoms. Fifth Disease is so named because it is always listed last (and least) when the five common contagious rashes of childhood are listed.
It usually occurs in children in late winter and early spring, sometimes in clusters or outbreaks. The illness may by preceded first by headache, bodyache, and low-grade fever. These symptoms are usually mild and are gone after a couple of days. It can be recognized because it causes a characteristic "slapped cheek" appearance in children. The rash often begins on the cheeks and is later found on the arms and legs. It is a very fine, lacy, pink rash. It tends to come and go and may be present one moment and absent the next. It is prone to recur for days or even weeks, especially as a response to heat (warm bath or shower) or skin irritation.
The incubation time is estimated to be 1-2 weeks.
The disease is spread through the air, and a person is contagious during the headache, bodyache, etc. phase of the illness. By the time the rash appears and if there is no fever, the person is no longer contagious. It is not necessary to exclude the student from school unless there is discomfort or a fever. If your child continues to have a fever, contact your child's doctor. Other rash-diseases such as rubella or scarlet fever must be ruled out.
Although the illness is usually mild, and in many cases goes unnoticed, there is some concern if a pregnant woman acquires the illness during the first half of pregnancy. The risk of this occurring does not appear to be very great. However, it is advised that if a woman is pregnant and exposed to Fifth Disease that she contact her physician. Approximately 50% of adults appear to be immune to the disease.
If your child does come down with Fifth Disease, please inform the School Nurse.