Fifth Disease - Symptoms

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What are fifth disease symptoms and signs in children and adults?

Though fifth disease generally occurs in children between 4-10 years of age, it can affect any age group, including adults. It most commonly occurs during the winter and spring. The illness classically begins with a low-grade fever and malaise (a sense of not feeling well). After about a week, this is followed by a characteristic bright red rash on the cheeks (the so-called "slapped cheeks" rash). Finally, after three to four days, a fine, red, lacelike rash can develop over the rest of the body. This rash may last for five days to a week and occasionally comes and goes for up to three weeks. The other symptoms are usually gone by the time the rash appears, and patients with the rash are usually not contagious. Unfortunately, as with many other viral illnesses, the features and timing of the different stages of illness are not always predictable.

While the illness is not serious in children, around 5% of children and around 50% of adults with fifth disease can have joint aches and pains. This arthritis or arthropathy is more common in females than males and is usually temporary, lasting days to weeks, but may become a long-term problem for months. People with arthritis from fifth disease usually have stiffness in the morning, with redness and swelling of the same joints on both sides of the body (a "symmetrical" arthritis). The joints most commonly involved are the knees, fingers, and wrists.

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Comment from: Taylor, 13-18 Female (Patient) Published: March 07

I am 18 years old, I work at a day care. I woke up two weeks ago with an itchy rash all over my back, arms, legs, and stomach. I thought I was having an allergic reaction to new detergent, but after wearing clothes not washed with the new detergent, I knew it was something else. My doctor told me I was having an allergic reaction and gave me 10 days' worth of prednisone. My 10 days of medication ran out and I still had this rash, especially on my arms. I had never heard of fifth disease, but I started to suspect it was something viral after one of the kids at the day care started to present the same symptoms, along with really red cheeks. The director of the day care told me it was probably fifth disease. Today is Day 15 and the rash is not as bad, but still on my arms and legs. I did not have the red cheeks more than a couple of days, but I do note that my ears have been very red and feel like they are burning. The child at the day care also still has symptoms. I've also experience back pain, headaches, runny nose, fatigue, and an upset stomach. I really wish this virus would hurry up and get out of me!

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Comment from: marcyjane, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 04

My son had fifths last fall. It was going around his middle school. I was sick with a flu like illness before Christmas but then seemed to get over it. However, after New Year's I noticed I was getting itchy on my torso with small clusters of red bumps. I also noticed a strange pain on the top of my hip bone that radiated into my back with time. Then the back pain hit, the pain in my hands, wrists and neck. My knees didn"t hurt but they kept popping all the time, which they never did before. I"ve been to 2 doctors so far. I sprained my back shoveling just a little bit of snow, which is odd for me as I"m usually able to do anything, be very active, and feel fine. I do Pilates and light cardio to keep in shape, but I feel as if my muscles and bones are losing this battle. My doctor is testing me for Lyme but refuses to test me for fifths as it is self-limiting and wouldn"t affect how I was treated. My suspicions are it is fifths disease associated arthritis. It has been almost 2 months so far and sometimes I feel as if I"m so tired from the pain that I can"t be the mother to my son I"d like to be, that I was before. I hope every day this will end, and end soon. I just want to be normal again.

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