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Red Cheeks Can Be A Sign Of A Viral Infection In Your Child
  • Though the COVID-19 pandemic is on everyone’s minds, there are still other diseases out there that can affect our children, including measles, dengue, and a highly contagious viral infection called slapped cheek syndrome.


    What is slapped cheek syndrome?

    Slapped cheek syndrome is also called Fifth disease or erythema infectiosum. It is a viral infection caused by parvovirus B19. It is most common in children ages 5 to 15 years old, according to KidsHealth.org.

    The syndrome got its name because it causes a bright, red rash on the face that looks like a “slapped cheek.” After a few days, the rash will spread down the body, arms, and legs.

    Symptoms of slapped cheek syndrome

    The illness presents itself with cold-like symptoms. The first sign might be feeling unwell for a few days, according to the U.K. National Health Service (NHS). Other symptoms include:

    • low fever
    • headache
    • runny nose
    • joint pains (usually in older kids and adults)

    The rash first appears on the face. Then, red blotches that are lighter in color spread on the body, arms, and legs. It will be itchy and after a few days, it will take on a lacy, net-like look.

    Apart from the symptoms above, Fifth disease can also cause swollen glands, red eyes, sore throat, diarrhea, and in rare cases, rashes that look like blisters or bruises. Swelling in the hands, wrists, and knees, also happen, usually to adults and older kids.


    How long does slap cheek last?

    Rashes on the cheek will last from one to three weeks, same with the body rash. According to KidsHealth, it will seem like the rash is about to get worse before it finally clears.

    How contagious is slapped cheek syndrome?

    Slapped cheek is a contagious disease. It can be spread person-to-person through the droplets of an infected individual’s cough or sneeze, either by inhaling it or touching contaminated surfaces. It can also be passed from the mother to her unborn child.

    According to the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in Melbourne, Australia, children who are infected with Fifth disease are contagious up to 24 hours after their fever has gone down.

    The rash is due to an immune system reaction that happens after the infection has passed, so a person with the disease is most contagious before the rash appears, says KidsHealth. After the rash appears, children will usually not be able to spread the infection.

    Should I be worried if my child gets slapped cheek syndrome?

    For most people, the illness is no worse than a common cold. Sometimes, parents won’t even know that their child is infected with the virus.

    According to KidsHealth, this is a mild illness that will clear up on its own, without the help of medicine. Children with Fifth disease will likely feel better after some rest. After the fever resolves and the cold-like symptoms disappear, what’s left to be treated is the discomfort they’ll feel due to the rash.

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    However, if your child is feeling unwell and has a fever, it is always best to let them stay home to prevent the disease from spreading. You can give your child paracetamol or ibuprofen for your child’s fever, according to the RCH. You may also consult with a doctor on the best way to manage your child’s rash if it’s itchy.

    When to call a doctor

    In rare cases, kids with slapped cheek syndrome can develop swelling and joint pain in the hands and feet. Call your doctor for the best way to treat these symptoms.

    If you’re pregnant and develop a rash, or if you were exposed to an individual suspected with Fifth disease, contact your doctor immediately. Parvovirus B19 infection during pregnancy may affect the fetus, especially during the first half of pregnancy, says KidsHealth.

    Children with weakened immune systems or blood disorders can fall seriously ill if infected with Fifth diseases. According to KidsHealth, the virus can temporarily slow down or stop the production of red blood cells in the body, which can lead to severe anemia. Hospital treatment is needed in this case.

    How to prevent slapped cheek syndrome

    There is no vaccine for the disease. It is also hard to prevent its spread because an infected individual will no longer be contagious by the time the rash appears.

    Handwashing is the best way to prevent slapped cheek syndrome. Experts say it is the most effective “vaccine” to prevent illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses and protects against the spread of infectious diseases.



    A rash can mean many things including this rare autoimmune disease. Read about it here.

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