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Fifth disease, symptoms, treatment and return to school

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Fifth disease, symptoms, treatment and return to school

Infectious Megaloerythema: A Guide to Fifth Disease in Children

Infectious megaloerythema, more commonly known as the fifth disease, is a viral infection caused by Parvovirus B19 that is widespread in childhood. This disease is recognized for the widespread redness on both cheeks, hence its scientific name. While it is one of the most common exanthematous diseases in children, it is also considered one of the least dangerous.

Fifth disease is transmitted through the air, via droplets of saliva and mucus, or occasionally through exposure to infected blood or blood products. The infection can take anywhere from a few days to two to three weeks to show symptoms, and once contracted, immunity to Parvovirus B19 is lifetime.

Symptoms of fifth disease typically begin with flu-like symptoms such as fever, malaise, sore throat, headache, and muscle aches. The contagious phase of the infection can last 7-10 days, during which the symptoms may be mild. The distinctive red rash on both cheeks is a clear sign of the disease and can spread to the rest of the body, forming red bubbles that may itch. The rash can last up to a week and may reappear for several weeks, especially under stress or certain conditions.

There is no specific cure or vaccine for fifth disease, as symptoms are usually mild and do not require special treatment. However, if the child’s temperature rises or they are uncomfortable, the pediatrician may recommend antipyretics or other medications to alleviate symptoms. While fifth disease is not typically dangerous for children and healthy adults, those with pre-existing conditions should seek medical advice. Pregnant women, in particular, should avoid contact with infected individuals, as the virus can put the fetus at risk.

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There is no quarantine period for fifth disease, so children can return to school once flu-like symptoms have subsided, even if the rash is still present. The appearance of the rash signals the end of the contagious phase of the disease.

Overall, fifth disease is a common childhood illness that is usually mild and self-limiting. By recognizing the symptoms and understanding how to behave accordingly, parents and caregivers can manage the disease effectively.

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