Slapped cheek disease

My baby’s cheeks are suddenly bright red. Why is this?

Your baby could have slapped cheek disease, a common childhood illness. It’s caused by a virus called parvovirus B19, and gets its name from the bright red rash that appears on the cheeks. The long name for slapped cheek disease is erythema infectiosum.

It’s also known as fifth disease because it’s the fifth rash in a group of five red rash diseases that also includes:

  • scarlet fever
  • measles
  • rubella
  • roseola

Like other viruses such as colds and flu, your baby can catch slapped cheek disease from an infected person coughing or sneezing near him.

symptoms

It takes between four and 14 days for symptoms to appear once your baby’s been infected. Slapped cheek disease usually starts with a fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as a sore throat and aches and pains.

Three to seven days after these flu-like symptoms set in your baby’s cheeks will turn red and look as if they’ve actually been slapped. A red, lacy rash may appear on your baby’s body and limbs a few days later. The rash may make your baby feel itchy and uncomfortable.

However, some babies won’t have all of the symptoms of slapped cheek disease. Your baby may feel fine and just have the red rash on his cheeks. Or he may be a bit off-colour and not have the rash at all, so you may not even realise he has slapped cheek disease.

The rash can sometimes reappear months later if your baby has been in the sun or become hot, perhaps after having a bath or being active. If this happens to your baby, it doesn’t mean the infection has come back.

should i call a doctor?

Slapped cheek disease is a mild illness in babies and children. It’s a virus, so it just needs to run its course until your baby’s better. However, you may want to take your baby to the doctor to confirm that it’s slapped cheek disease.

Your doctor can also give you some advice about treating your baby at home. Sometimes the rash on your baby’s face and body can linger for up to a month, but this doesn’t mean your baby still has the illness.

If your baby’s fever lasts longer than a few days or reaches 39 degrees C or higher, see your doctor. Your baby may have a different infection.

how to treat

Your baby’s slapped cheek disease will go away on its own. But there are a few things you can do to ease your baby’s discomfort if he’s not feeling well:

  • Make sure your baby gets plenty of rest
  • Encourage him to take extra breast or formula feeds. If your baby is formula-fed or on solids he can have extra water, too. This will keep him hydrated and bring down his fever, if he has one.
  • Give your baby infant paracetamol or ibuprofen to bring down his fever, but only if he is three months or older. Check the dosage information on the packet, or ask your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure about how much to give your baby.
  • Treatment of symptoms such as fever, pain, or itching is usually all that is needed for fifth disease. Adults with joint pain and swelling may need to rest, restrict their activities, and take medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve symptoms. The few people who have severe anaemia caused by parvovirus B19 infection may need to be hospitalized and receive blood transfusions. Persons with immune problems may need special medical care, including treatment with immune globulin (antibodies), to help their bodies get rid of the infection.

It’s best to keep your baby at home until he’s better. This will help to prevent him spreading the virus to other children, and also from picking up other infections alongside slapped cheek disease.

Any complications?

For most babies, slapped cheek disease is a mild illness. But it can be more serious for babies with sickle cell disease or thalassaemia

These disorders cause babies to have low levels of red blood cells (anaemia). Slapped cheek disease can make these types of anaemia suddenly worse. So call your doctor if your baby has one of these disorders, and you think he has slapped cheek disease.

can adults get this fifth disease?

Yes, they can. An adult who is not immune can be infected with parvovirus B19 and either have no symptoms or develop the typical rash of fifth disease, joint pain or swelling, or both. Usually, joints on both sides of the body are affected. The joints most frequently affected are the hands, wrists, and knees. The joint pain and swelling usually resolve in a week or two, but they may last several months. About 50% of adults, however, have been previously infected with parvovirus B19, have developed immunity to the virus, and cannot get fifth disease.

Yes, they can. An adult who is not immune can be infected with parvovirus B19 and either have no symptoms or develop the typical rash of fifth disease, joint pain or swelling, or both. Usually, joints on both sides of the body are affected. The joints most frequently affected are the hands, wrists, and knees. The joint pain and swelling usually resolve in a week or two, but they may last several months. About 50% of adults, however, have been previously infected with parvovirus B19, have developed immunity to the virus, and cannot get fifth disease.

can this be prevented?

There is no vaccine or medicine that prevents parvovirus B19 infection. Frequent handwashing is recommended as a practical and probably effective method to decrease the chance of becoming infected. Excluding persons with fifth disease from work, child care centers, or schools is not likely to prevent the spread of the virus, since people are contagious before they develop the rash.

Pages:
Edit