Slapped Cheek Syndrome: All You Need To Know

By Bindu Vinodh

Have you ever heard of a condition called 'Slapped Cheek Syndrome'? Recently, a 25-year-old mother at Newcastle lost her unborn baby after catching the infection from a nursery where she worked. Although common in children, this infection can affect people of any age. Read on to know more about this health condition.

What Is Slapped Cheek Syndrome?

Slapped cheek syndrome, also known as 'Fifth Disease' or 'Parvovirus B19' is a viral infection that is common in children, although adults can catch the infection too. Bright red rash on the cheeks is a characteristic of this syndrome.

Slapped Cheek Syndrome symptoms

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Slapped cheek syndrome is caused by Parvovirus B19. Often, people may not know about the infection, until the rash appears. Despite the alarming rash, slapped cheek syndrome is usually a mild infection that clears by itself in two to three weeks.

It may however get serious in people with a weakened immune system, or in those with a blood disorder, or in pregnant women. In any case, do not hesitate to seek medical advice if you suspect any of the symptoms. The condition is often diagnosed by a blood test.

Symptoms:

Symptoms often develop within 4 to 14 days after contracting the infection, although at times, it may remain asymptomatic for 21 days. Some of the common symptoms associated with slapped cheek infection are:

• A temperature of 38 degree C (100.4 degree F) or more
• Runny nose and sore throat
• Headache
• Joint pain and stiffness
• Upset stomach
• Cheek rash or body rash
• General feeling of unease

In extreme conditions, when left undiagnosed, the patient may develop pale skin, shortness of breath, extreme tiredness or fainting, when you should seek an emergency appointment.

About Slap Cheek Rash

The infection is most contagious during the initial period. The distinctive bright red rash on both cheeks is a characteristic of this syndrome in children, although most adults do not get the rash on the cheeks. It is said that once the rash develops, the infection is no longer contagious.

Following the rash on cheeks, sometimes the rash may appear on the stomach, arms, chest and thighs too. The rashes usually fade away within a week or two.

How Does It Spread?

Caused by Parvovirus B19, the infection is transferred through coughs and sneezes of the infected person, just as in cases of cold and flu. You may get infected on inhaling the droplets that are coughed or sneezed by an infected person, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your nose or mouth with your hand.

Treatment

For Children:

Take your child to the doctor in case you notice any of the mentioned symptoms. The infection is usually mild in children and may clear up without specific treatment. Generally, paracetamol is recommended for fever or joint pain.

In case the rashes are itchy, the doctor may recommend a moisturizing lotion. But, ensure that your child stays at home during the initial period of the infection. Being a viral infection, it fades away within a two-week period.

For Adults:

Adults who are exposed to the infection should seek medical help on developing any of the infection symptoms. Particularly, if you are pregnant, there are associated risks of miscarriage and other complications if you are not immune.

Patients with blood disorders and a weakened immune system are also at risk and such patients may need treatment in the hospital. If you are severely anaemic and have a pale skin, you may need special attention. In severe cases of anaemia, hospital admission and blood transfusion may be recommended.

Generally, sufficient rest and plenty of fluids are advised to prevent dehydration. Currently, there is no vaccination to prevent the slapped cheek syndrome.

Prevention:

  • To reduce the risk of spreading of this viral infection, do the following:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and lukewarm water.
    Use tissues when you cough and sneeze, and discard the used tissues immediately.
  • Try to build your immunity, as the immune system is the body's defense, which helps protect it from bacteria and viruses.
  • Try to keep children away from school or childcare during the initial period of the infection. Once the rashes develop, the infection, however, does not spread.
  • Pregnant women who are concerned if they have contracted the illness can get a blood test done to detect if they are immune.
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    Read more about: health
    Story first published: Friday, May 25, 2018, 17:00 [IST]
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