By Anita K. Henry
Fifth Disease is a viral infection that can bring on coldlike symptoms and a bright-red face-and-body rash in infants, young children, and, occasionally, adults. This disease is just one of a lengthy list of skin conditions that can target young kids. In fact, the name Fifth Disease is a historical term dating back to when common skin conditions were listed by number rather than name. Luckily for parents, this one is usually mild and goes away on its own, and some children may not even show any signs of being sick.
The human parvovirus B19 is the culprit here. It's unclear what causes the virus to appear but it's no mystery how your child catches it. "It's mainly passed from person to person through respiratory secretions, such as saliva and mucus," says Stephen Pishko, M.D., assistant professor of general pediatrics division at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center and LeBonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis. "Kids cough and sneeze and don't cover their mouths and generally don't wash their hands too thoroughly."
Kids with Fifth will most likely spread it when they have fever and coldlike symptoms. "You're most contagious when you have a fever," says Dr. Pishko. "A fever is a sign of your body trying to fight something."