Its that time of year when slapped cheek syndrome (also sometimes called fifth disease or erythema infectiosum) tends to circulate in the community and it has come to our attention that there have been many recent cases in the Galway area.
The most common symptom of slapped cheek syndrome is the appearance of a bright red rash on both cheeks (hence the name). Parents and caregivers can be reassured that this is a common infectious illness of childhood. It is caused by parvovirus B19 and just like with other viruses, children with slapped cheek syndrome tend to develop the usual symptoms of mild fever, sore throat, runny nose, headache and upset tummy. These symptoms are also accompanied by redness of the cheeks in the first few days and later often followed by a rash on the body.
There is no specific treatment for parvovirus B19 infection. Antibiotics are not useful and the illness resolves by itself within 7-10 days without serious harm (children with diseases of the immune system or receiving chemotherapy may need some supportive care).
Parvovirus can cause harm to an unborn baby so pregnant women who come into contact with this illness should seek medical advice.