Why is it Called Fifth Disease?

Fifth disease is one of those contagious childhood illnesses that seem to plague our kids between the ages of 2 and 10. They stop by a few times a year, usually bringing a fever and respiratory symptoms along.  Some, like fifth disease, include a rash too.

In fact, fifth disease is so named because it was the fifth childhood disease characterized by a rash to be identified.  Measles was first, followed by scarlet fever, rubella, and chicken pox.  Fifth is the only one still identified by its number, though the official viral name is human parvovirus B19.  Great cocktail party trivia, huh?

It is sometimes called “slapped-cheek disease” because of the typical rash on the face. You spread it by coughing and sneezing.  It is generally mild, and appears with fever and respiratory symptoms which are followed by the rash — first on the face, then spreading to the rest of the body.  Symptoms, including the rash, usually go away in      5 – 7 days and don’t require treatment other than comfort measures.

For all the details, check out this complete article on Web MD.

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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2 responses to “Why is it Called Fifth Disease?”

  1. Paige

    Such interesting information! I actually had fifth desiese in jr high school. I remember my doctor telling me to stay away from pregnant women. Is that true?

  2. Rachel Zahn

    It is. Parvovirus can cause birth defects … especially if mom contracts it the 1st trimester of pregnancy. Fortunately, most women have already been exposed to this common virus by the time they’re of childbearing age. xo — Mama R

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