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Erythema Infectiosum


What is erythema infectiosum?

Erythema infectiosum, or fifth disease, is a mild infection caused by a virus. It is spread through respiratory droplets, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread through a blood transfusion. Erythema infectiosum is most common in school-aged children.

What are the signs and symptoms of erythema infectiosum?

Flu-like symptoms appear first, followed by a face rash, and then a body rash. The rash may last up to 10 days. Your child may have any of the following:

  • Headache or body aches
  • Fever, chills, tiredness
  • Stuffy or runny nose and sore throat
  • Nausea or diarrhea
  • Bright red, warm cheek rash
  • Red, itchy, body rash that has a lace pattern
  • Joint pain and swelling

How is erythema infectiosum diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will look in your child's ears, nose, and throat. He will examine your child's rash. Tell him all of your child's symptoms and how long he has had them.

How is erythema infectiosum treated?

Your child's infection will go away on its own. The following medicines may help your child feel better:

  • Antihistamines: This medicine may help decrease itching. It is available without a doctor's order. Use as directed.
  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These medicines are given to decrease your child's pain and fever. They can be bought without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child, and how often to give it.

What are the risks of erythema infectiosum?

The rash may come back when your child is in the sun or heat. Exercise and stress may also cause the rash to reappear. Your child may be at risk for long-term infection if he has a weak immune system.

How can I manage my child's symptoms?

Help your child rest. Encourage him to read or draw quietly. He can return to his daily activities as directed.

How can I help prevent the spread of erythema infectiosum?

Remind your child to wash his hands often with soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food.

When can my child go back to daycare or school?

Your child is contagious during the week before his rash appears. This is usually when your child has flu-like symptoms. Your child can return to daycare or school when his face rash appears. This means he is no longer contagious. Tell your child's daycare or school that your child has fifth disease. They may need to tell other parents that their children have been exposed.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child's rash does not go away after 10 days.
  • Your child's joint pain and swelling do not get better with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your child is confused.
  • Your child is hard to wake.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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