Always see a doctor if you're concerned about any aspects of your health or wellbeing while pregnant.

What is it?

Slapped cheek syndrome is also known as Fifth Disease (named as one of the six common childhood rashes recognized at the turn of the century) or slapped face syndrome, and is formally known as Parvovirus B19. It should not be confused with the parvovirus that affects dogs and cats.

The 'slapped cheek disease' nickname is due to the red and distinctive rash that usually appears on the face of a child towards the final stages of the virus. It is a highly contagious childhood infection that is most typically seen among preschool and primary school-aged children.

Unless your child is immuno-suppressed or has a haemolytic blood disorder (such as anaemia), slapped cheek disease is a non-serious virus which will get better on its own over one or two weeks. Most children will have parvovirus at some point during their childhood, and people who have had parvovirus B19 are usually immune to it for life.

What are the symptoms?

Parvovirus is difficult to detect in the early stages as the symptoms are the same as for many other viruses. The main early symptoms may include:

  • Sore throat and runny nose
  • Temperature
  • Aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Itching
  • Irritability

Several days after the appearance of the above symptoms, children may develop a distinctive bright red rash, usually on both cheeks. This rash may last for several days and a lacy pink rash may extend to your child’s arms, trunk and legs. The rash may last for up to three weeks, but by the time the rash appears, your child is no longer contagious.

What are the causes?

Slapped cheek disease is a virus which is spread via droplets coughed out by infected children. There is no vaccine or medicine which prevents this virus.

What are the treatments?

While you should always consult your child’s doctor if you are concerned about their health, there is usually no need to seek medical assistance for parvovirus unless, as mentioned above, your child is immuno-suppressed or has a haemolytic blood disorder. Being a virus, antibiotics are not required and treatment is centred on making your child feel more comfortable. Some treatments which may help your child include:

•    Plenty of fluids
•    Plenty of rest
•    Pain relief, such as paracetamol

Other resources

The Children’s Hospital Westmead Fact Sheet