My child has what? (fifth disease)

One day you may go to pick up your child from their school or daycare and see a sign that says, “A case of fifth disease was identified in this class.  Please see your teacher for further questions.”  Most likely this gets your protective parent mind racing.  What does this mean?  Is my child safe?  Are they okay?

As a first-time mom I was introduced to fifth disease a few years back when my daughter’s daycare provider mentioned it because her cheeks were really red.  ‘Really,’ I thought, ‘she seems okay.’   Later that night, I also noticed a lace-like rash on her upper body.   All this prompted me to hop on the internet that night to look at several websites, including the Canadian Paediatric Society’s Caring for Kids page, and I found out that it was a respiratory infection caused by a virus called parvovirus B19.

It is spread like the common cold, so it is good to remember all the golden rules that help keep germs from spreading – WASH YOUR HANDS, COVER YOUR COUGH.  It often starts with a mild fever or cold followed by a characteristic red rash on the cheeks, making the face look as it had been slapped.   This is followed by a lace-like rash on the body.   The rash may last from one to three weeks.  Suddenly, I had a brief episode of panic.  Who is going to stay home for three weeks with my daughter?  Further reading reassured me that:

  • the disease is mild for most kids, and some may not even have symptoms
  • it is no longer contagious after the rash appears
  • there is no period of exclusion from school or daycare if your child is well enough to participate in normal activities

Children with weak immune systems or certain blood disorders may have more serious illness.   Adults, as well, may experience a more serious illness that comes with fever and joint pain.

Another group of people that are often concerned about this illness is pregnant women.  There is a very low risk that an unborn baby may develop anemia.   If you are pregnant and exposed to fifth disease you should talk with your health care provider.  Your doctor may have even already tested you for immunity, especially if you work with young kids.   50% of adults have immunity to fifth disease and won’t get it again.  Motherisk is a community support offered through the Hospital for Sick Kids and is a great source of information related to concerns during pregnancy, including fifth disease.

Fortunately for me, my daughter had a mild illness and missed no daycare…and mommy missed no work.

Share your experience:

For more information about Fifth disease, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at
  • Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

About this guest blogger:

Nicole Fawcett, RN is a public health nurse with 15 years of nursing experience.   She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing fromMcMasterUniversity.  Nicole enjoys raising her two young daughters in the same community where she lives and works to promote health and prevent disease.

This entry was posted in Babies, Children & Tweens, Keeping Your Baby Safe, Keeping Your Child/Tween Safe, Keeping Your Toddler & Preschooler Safe, Parenting, Parenting Your Baby, Parenting Your Child/Tween, Parenting Your Toddler & Preschooler, Pregnancy, Prenatal Health, Toddlers & Preschoolers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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