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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.