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Can Adults Get Fifth Disease?

Can Adults Get Fifth Disease?

25 November 2015 / Category: News
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doctor writing medical recordFifth disease is a mild illness that is often accompanied by a red rash and joint pain, it is more common in children but can also impact adults. When adults are infected with fifth disease it tends to be more severe, including flu-like symptoms and joint pain. Children are more likely to develop the red rash than adults.

Fifth disease develops between 4 and 14 days of contracting parvovirus B19, although sometimes the body may take as long as 20 days to show signs of fifth disease. Interestingly, 20% of people infected with this virus experience no symptoms.

Parvovirus B19 is a common infection spread between children in elementary school, although it can impact you at any age if you have not been infected previously. Fifth disease is very common amongst children with healthy immune systems, and isn’t generally anything to worry about as it should go away on its own.

Once you contract fifth disease you should retain immunity for life. Most adults have the necessary antibodies to fight off fifth disease, but if you do get it as an adult symptoms tend to be more severe. The illness is most dangerous if developed while pregnant. If you are pregnant and have been exposed to fifth disease you need to see a doctor right away.  Complications associated with fifth disease may cause serious problems to unborn babies, including anemia or even fetal death. 

Common Symptoms Of Fifth Disease

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Low fever
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea

Symptoms related to fifth disease generally start out mild before progressing. The first signs are similar to any cold or flu and include a fever, runny nose and headache. A few days later the notorious rash may develop on your face, hence how the illness earned its nickname “slapped cheek” disease. In some people the rash spreads within the next several days across the chest, back, buttocks, arms and legs. The rash is itchy to some, especially if it spreads to the bottom of your feet. In most cases, the rash disappears within 7 to 10 days but may return on and off for a period of several weeks.

Children are more likely to develop the rash than adults, while adults are more likely to develop joint pain or swollen joints. Some adults only experience joint pain and no other symptoms. This pain is most common in the feet, hands and/or knees. You can expect joint paint to dissipate within 1 to 3 weeks, but in rare cases it lasts longer.

Is Fifth Disease Contagious? 

Fifth disease is most contagious prior to developing the rash or joint pain. When you have cold symptoms such as sneezing and coughing you are most contagious to others, as the infection is spread through saliva and mucus. It is important to note that it can also be spread through blood. In most cases you are no longer contagious after the rash develops.

Diagnosing Fifth Disease

In some cases a doctor can diagnose fifth disease with a simple check over, this is especially true if you have the red rash. If you’re only experiencing joint pain, it is harder to identify the problem and a blood test may be necessary. Always inform your doctor if you have recently had cold symptoms, even if they were not that severe as this helps lead to the proper diagnoses of fifth disease.

How To Treat Fifth Disease

Fifth disease is a mild illness that generally goes away on its own in people with healthy immune systems. The most common form of treatment is to get plenty of rest and take proper medications to relieve discomfort associated with joint pain, inflammation, itching and fever. If your symptoms do not seem to be improving you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Fifth disease is more serious if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system. If this is the case for you, doctor supervision is very important as your body works to fight off the illness. This is especially true if you are anemic as fifth disease may stop your body’s production of red blood cells, reducing oxygen supply to your tissues.

How To Help Prevent Fifth Disease

There is no vaccine or medication to prevent or treat parvovirus B19, which causes the development of fifth disease. Sort of like Chicken Pox, once you get fifth disease your body builds up the immunity to fight it off in the future.

There are things you can do to help prevent infection, including:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20-30 seconds.
  • Do not touch your face without first washing your hands.
  • Avoid getting close to people that are sick.

We are here for you! At the first sign of fifth disease visit your local Urgent Medical Center for fast treatment and relief.

References – (CDC)(Healthline)

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