Slapped cheek is a viral illness which is also known as fifth disease or erythema infectiosum and is caused by a virus known as parvovirus B19. It has many of the same sort of symptoms of the flu as other viral illnesses which I’ll describe more here but also a characteristic rash on the cheeks which leaves them looking as if they have been slapped, and also a faint recurring red rash on the body is possible.
This infection is most prevalent in April and May and mostly occurs in children ages 3-15 years of age but can affect anyone. The symptoms tend to appear anywhere between 1 and three weeks after infection has occurred. Once you have caught slapped cheek you don’t get it again as your body produces antibodies to protect you from future infection.
The illness generally starts with symptoms such as mild to moderate fever, runny nose, sore throat, mild nausea, headaches etc. It is usually a week to ten days after that when the rash appears. It’s important to know that not everyone who catches the virus gets all symptoms including the rash so you may not even know your child has had it! In fact about 25% of people escape without any symptoms at all! If you are lucky enough to suffer from the illness without even getting symptoms and noticing you will still be lucky enough to be immune from it in the future – although I use the term luck loosely here!!
The rash commonly associated with slapped cheek gets its name from its red scald like rash that appears on one or both cheeks. It can sometimes be mild though appearing just like a red blotchy rash on the cheeks. A few days after the rash appears on the cheeks a generalised body rash can appear which is often lacey in appearance. This rash often clears within a few days but can come and go for a few weeks before fully resolving. This illness is not contagious after day one of the time the rash appearing The rash can be itchy and a little irritating.
There is no treatment for the virus itself – just the symptoms.
- Paracetamol (Calpol or Paralink) may be used to help with fever, aches and pains.
- Ibuprofen (Nurofen or Easofen) can be used instead of or in addition to Paracetamol for aches and pains and fever.
- Antihistamines such as zirtek or phenergan can be used in children over two years of age for itch associated with rash.
- An emollient moisturiser such a La roche Posay Lipikar Balme may help to soothe your child’s irritated skin.
When to see the doctor
- Weakened immune system – This illness may effect your child more.
- Children who suffer from anaemia – their anaemia may become severely worse from this illness.
- If you are pregnant – seek medical attention although do not panic as the chances are you have had this illness before and are immune. Your doctor may perform a blood test to reassure you or a scan to check on your baby.
Your child can go to school or creche if the rash has been up for one day or more as they are no longer infectious. If your child has any signs of illness such as coughs or colds its always a good idea to practice extra vigilant hand hygiene etc. It’s very difficult to avoid getting slapped cheek because parents don’t know their kids have it until the infectious period is over and so it’s next to impossible for anyone to stop the spread!
I hope you find this helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help! Check out our online shop at www.milltownpharmacy.ie