Symptoms Of Fifth Disease

October 26, 2023

Fifth disease, also known and referred to as erythema infectiosum is so called because, in the past, it was the fifth illness on a list that contained common skin rashes seen affecting children. Children are more likely to develop fifth disease than are adults. The sickness is always caused by parvovirus B19. Parvovirus B19 is spread to others through bodily fluids like saliva or when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Not touching your face, eyes, and mouth and intentionally avoiding people who are sick may help prevent its spread. Reveal fifth disease symptoms now.

A Runny Nose

A stuffy or runny nose is often a complaint associated with the onset of fifth disease. An array of other flu-like symptoms usually accompanies this cold-like symptom. It can be symptomatic of other diseases as well, leading many patients to misdiagnose themselves. This is why no symptom should be overlooked, and anyone suspecting fifth disease should see a doctor for a correct diagnosis. Frequent hand washing may help prevent the spread or development of the illness. Because this symptom is common with other illnesses, fifth disease may be overlooked or misdiagnosed, but the one key identifier of erythema infectiosum is the rash. Individuals with fifth disease are typically still contagious until the onset of the rash.

Low-Grade Fever

Individuals with fifth disease usually have a mild, low-grade fever. The fifth disease fever generally does not reach extreme levels, and it may go away on its own, but should not be ignored. This symptom is commonly associated with fifth disease and can affect individuals who are otherwise in good health. These general flu-like symptoms typically manifest themselves after about four to fourteen days of coming into contact with parvovirus B19. Individuals with a fever and fifth disease are still considered to be contagious and might be advised to stay home and cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze to prevent others from getting the illness.

Bright Red Rash On Cheeks

Fifth disease includes the development of a mild rash. Once individuals develop this characteristic slapped cheek rash, they are generally considered to be no longer contagious or at risk to other individuals. Children are more likely to develop this characteristic of fifth disease than adults are. While it usually appears on the face or cheeks, the distinct rash caused by fifth disease might also appear on other areas such as the torso or other extremities. It may cause itchiness or discomfort, and the intensity varies from individual to individual. The rashes may come and go over the course of a few weeks and will fade away on their own time.

Joint Pain

Individuals affected by fifth disease may also feel achy. The joints often feel painful and swollen. Joint pain is a normal symptom associated with this illness, are referred to as polyarthropathy syndrome, and are simply inflammation in the joints caused by the parvovirus B19. This might be the only symptom someone with fifth disease shows the signs of. This paint is most often short-term and goes away in one to three weeks, but can last for even longer and sometimes even months in certain individual cases. This symptom, like the others, goes away on its own and does not continue to cause problems for the individual once they have recovered.


Headaches are another mild symptom associated with the onset of fifth disease. This symptom is usually treated with pain relievers or other medication and goes away on its own. This symptom may also go away without the need for additional treatment. If pain and discomfort are severe, rest and activity restriction may be advised until the symptom lifts. Since this symptom often accompanies other illnesses, a blood test may be requested by the doctor to confirm the presence of parvovirus B19 and the development of fifth disease. Once people get this illness, they are generally immune from getting it again.

A Persistent Rash

One of the most consistent symptoms of fifth disease is a persistent rash that will not go away. A flat or raised red rash that usually occurs on the arms and legs, can last anywhere from two to thirty-nine days on average, that may come with an unbearable itch. Specifically, the rash fades from the center of the red areas towards the edges of the rash, giving a lace-like appearance to the skin. It should be noted that the rash can recur with exercise, warm or hot baths and showers, constant scratching and rubbing of the skin, and anxiety or stress can also provoke a flare-up.

Some rashes are accompanied by other well-known symptoms, such as a headache, sore throat, and joint pain, but it generally does not occur with a flare-up. Not all children with fifth disease also develop this type of rash, as some may have a rash that lasts several weeks or changes with environmental triggers, such as the ones mentioned above.

A Sore Throat

A classic symptom of fifth disease, a sore throat is a common sign that a patient is battling an internal virus that may bring common cold and flu symptoms along with it. A sore throat is described as pain, scratchiness or irritation of the throat that often feels worse whenever an individual swallows, with the most common cause being a viral infection, such as a cold, flu, or fifth disease. Most often, a sore throat due to fifth disease will clear up on its own in a few days, therefore, patients do not need to worry compared to the persistent rash that appears due to fifth disease. A few remedies that can help alleviate the pain a child or adult may be experiencing with a sore throat include gargling salt water, drinking warm liquids that coat the throat, cooling the throat down with frozen treats, eating throat lozenges, and resting the vocal cords.

Swollen Glands

Considering fifth disease often inhabits the nose, mouth, and throat of an infected person, it is no surprise that a child or adult may experience swollen glands when they have the parvovirus B19. As part of the lymphatic system, the lymph nodes help the body filter fluids into itself and return the fluids to the circulation system for disposal. Lymph nodes also contain infection-fighting cells and white blood cells in these pea-sized lumps of tissue. These glands tend to swell a few centimeters or more when they are responding to an infection or disease, such as fifth disease, and these swollen glands can be found under the chin, neck, armpits or groin and will feel like a soft, round lump underneath the skin.

Abdominal Pain

As previously mentioned, fifth disease can bring a whole host of classic symptoms associated with a cold or flu, such as abdominal pain. Patients who are experiencing an upset stomach may also suffer from nausea and diarrhea as well. The severity of a child or adult’s stomach pain can vary, but the pain can range from a burning, gnawing, crampy, dull, or sharp sensation, and can either be intermittent or episodic, ongoing or chronic pain, or sudden or acute pain. Sometimes abdominal pain can be accompanied by swelling, bloating, dark or loose stools, constipation, fever, nausea, passing gas, or a rash, which are quite common symptoms individuals with fifth disease experience as well.

Just like many of the other cold and flu symptoms on this list, abdominal pain will pass within a few days as the virus takes its course or is being treated. A few ways to lessen abdominal pain is to avoid triggers that might make it worse such as certain foods, drinking more water, eating more fiber (if possible), a heating pad, and medications that relieve pain.

When To Contact A Doctor

Knowing when to contact a doctor is vital for getting a child or adult the proper diagnosis and starting treatment promptly. If a child has certain diseases, such as sickle cell anemia, other types of chronic anemia, or an impaired immune system and has been exposed to fifth disease and is beginning to exhibit its symptoms, the parent should take their child to a doctor immediately. If an adult begins to display common symptoms of fifth disease and are not sure if they are immune to parvovirus B19 (the virus that causes fifth disease) or comes into contact with another patient with this infection, they should also visit their doctor, as well as women who are pregnant and have been exposed to fifth disease. Also, if the patient has a painful rash that becomes purple and blistered that lasts longer than five weeks, they should also contact a doctor as soon as possible.

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