Slapped cheek or Fifth syndrome
Slapped cheek is a fairly mild viral illness also called parvovirus B19. Its name comes about because of its most obvious symptom, a red rash that makes the child’s cheeks look like they have been slapped. Slapped cheek is spread through personal contact, including coughing and sneezing.
Slapped cheek usually affects children between the ages of four to ten years but can affect a child at any age. Most infections do not have any symptoms. Slapped cheek is not life threatening and complications are rare.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms for slapped cheek can take between four to fourteen days to appear after getting the virus. The first symptoms can include:
- A bright red rash on the cheeks (looks like they have been slapped). The rash can spread to other parts of the body including tummy, chest and limbs.
- Stomach upset.
- Aches and pains.
Symptoms of slapped cheek are usually so mild that many people are not aware the child has the virus.
Treatment of Slapped cheek
Slapped cheek is a virus therefore antibiotics will not help. The virus is mild and most children do not need any treatment except for rest. If your child has a fever and they are uncomfortable, they can be given paracetamol. Your child is most contagious during the incubation period, approximately two weeks before the onset of the rash. Once the rash has appeared your child is usually not contagious. There is no vaccine for Slapped Cheek, good hygiene and handwashing are useful in helping to prevent the virus from spreading. There is no need to keep your child home from daycare or school.
Key points to remember
- Initial symptoms such as the headache, fever, tummy upsets is the time when the parvovirus B19 can spread to others, making it hard to identify as these symptoms are common for a range of childhood illnesses.
- Allowing the child to rest and fight the infection is the key management for Slapped Cheek.
- As soon as the rash is visible on the child’s face, they are no longer infectious to others, so can therefore attend school / day care.
- The rash may be present for several weeks and the infection often has a pink ‘lace like’ pattern on the skin.
- If your child is undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy or prescribed long-term steroids, notify your medical professional.
- If your child is unwell and you are unsure always seek the direct advice of your OWN medical practitioner.