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Fifth disease

Fifth disease (erythema infectiosum) is a contagious and usually mild viral illness that is common in children. Early symptoms of fifth disease are like flu symptoms, which are then followed by a rash on the face that looks like slapped cheeks and a lacy pink rash on the backs of the arms and legs, torso, and buttocks.

This illness is most contagious the week before the rash appears. After the rash has started, the child usually is no longer contagious. The rash may come and go for several weeks in response to changes in temperature and sunlight.

Home treatment with rest, fluids, and pain relievers can help keep the child comfortable.

Fifth disease, although usually a mild illness in children, poses a slight risk to developing fetuses. Pregnant women should avoid being exposed to the disease if possible. If a pregnant woman is exposed to a child who has fifth disease, or if she develops a rash like that caused by fifth disease, she should contact her doctor.

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