Let's Learn About ... Fifth Disease
A nurse practitioner explains erythema infectiosum
What is Fifth disease?
Fifth disease, also known as erythema infectiosum, is a common childhood virus. I typically stick with calling it “Fifth’s” because the medical term sounds a little bit like a Harry Potter spell. It is caused specifically by parvovirus. About half of us have been infected with the virus at some point in our life. It's usually spread from person to person through contact with fluids such as saliva, sputum coughed up from the lungs and nasal mucus. Yes, it's all the gross stuff. And no, this isn't the parvovirus found in dogs and cats. Contact with those animals with a parvovirus won't make you sick.
After a child is exposed to this illness it can be 1 to 2 weeks before symptoms occur.
Usually kids will start with nonspecific viral symptoms, such as fever, headache, redness or drainage to eyes, and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. Think flu-like symptoms. The most obvious part of this illness is the rash that comes with it. Fifty percent of children will have viral symptoms 1 to 2 weeks before the rash appears, 25 percent will have symptoms 2 to 5 days before and 25 percent of children will have no symptoms prior to the rash presenting. Kiddos are contagious during the viral symptoms stage of this illness.
The rash can be pretty shocking if you are not familiar with it! It is described as a “slapped cheek” appearance and a “lacy” body rash. After the rash appears the child is no longer contagious! You will still probably get some looks when you go to the grocery store, but you’re totally safe to be around others.
The rash is not harmful, but it is frustrating. It can last for several weeks and will look worse with heat, sun, stress or warm baths. Over time it gradually fades.
It should be mentioned that Fifth disease can cause complications during pregnancy. Most women have immunity to parvovirus, but about 5 percent of women are not. If a mom is not immune, the unborn baby can develop anemia, so it is important to let your doctor know if you have another child with fifth or have been exposed otherwise. The best way to prevent fifth disease is handwashing!
I'm posting a picture for reference, but if you have questions please call your pediatrician.
Get to know Tara Haraldson, a Nurse Practitioner at Willow Park
Tara Haraldson is a nurse practitioner at Cook Children's Willow Park. She joined Cook Children's in 2009 as a registered nurse in the emergency department. She completed her bachelor's degree at TCU in 2007, where she competed in swimming all four years. After several years of working as a nurse in adult and pediatric care, Tara attended UTA and obtained her masters as a primary care pediatric nurse practitioner. She joined Cook Children's Willow Park upon graduation in 2013. She is a three time recipient of the Clinical Excellence in Pediatrics Award from UTA and is currently a member of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
Tara enjoys building relationships with families and takes special interest in the promotion of breastfeeding and nutrition for all ages. She also likes caring for athletes and helping them stay in top condition.
Tara and her husband, Sam, live in Fort Worth where he works as an emergency room physician. They have four kids. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.