Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Fifth Disease

Fifth Disease

Condition Basics

What is fifth disease?

Fifth disease is a very common childhood illness. Adults can get it too. It is sometimes called slapped-cheek disease because of the rash that some people get on the face. You spread the disease by coughing and sneezing.

Fifth disease is usually a mild illness that lasts a few weeks. It can be more serious for people with weak immune systems or blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease. It can also cause problems for a developing fetus if exposure to the illness occurs during pregnancy. But this isn't common.

What causes it?

Fifth disease is caused by a virus called human parvovirus B19. (Only humans can catch and spread fifth disease. Although there are other parvoviruses that infect animals, you cannot catch these from your pet or any other animal.)

As a rule, people can spread fifth disease only while they have flu-like symptoms and before they get a rash. Usually, by the time the rash appears, you can no longer spread the disease to anyone else. Some people, such as those who have weak immune systems or blood disorders, may be able to spread the disease for a longer time.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually appear about 2 weeks after exposure to the virus. Early symptoms are similar to the flu—runny nose, sore throat, headache—and may be so mild that you don't notice them.

The rash comes several days later, first on the face and later over the rest of the body. It may be itchy. The rash may last for 7 to 10 days. The rash may come and go for several weeks. This doesn't mean the disease is worse.

Some people also get pain in their joints. This can last for several weeks or even months.

Not all people with fifth disease get a rash or feel sick.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose fifth disease by doing a physical exam and asking questions about your medical history. The disease is easier to diagnose if you have the rash.

Tests aren't usually needed, but they may be done in some cases to confirm that you have fifth disease.

How can you care for yourself when you have fifth disease?

Fifth disease usually goes away on its own. Antibiotics don't help with fifth disease, because the illness is caused by a virus, not a bacteria.

Home treatment can help with symptoms until you feel better.

  • Use acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) for fever, headache, or joint pain. If you give medicine to your baby, follow your doctor's advice about what amount to give. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Get extra rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.

Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome.

Try not to spread the illness. Wash your hands often, and stay home from school, day care, or work. (When the rash appears, you can return.)

If you are pregnant or have a weak immune system or certain blood disorders, see your doctor. You may need extra checkups, tests, or treatment.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Quick Tips: Safely Giving Over-the-Counter Medicines to Children Rash, Age 11 and Younger Hand-Washing Rash, Age 12 and Older

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details