Health & Fitness

Fifth Disease season means red rash, no cause for alarm

It’s spring, which means it’s time for Fifth Disease, a viral illness common in children that’s usually fairly benign.

Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician at Pediatric Associates in Kansas City, said parents need not bring their kids in if they have a red rash on their face, which is a telltale symptom of the disease.

“It is bringing a lot of kids to the office and sometimes unnecessarily,” Burgert said. “If the rash is easily recognized by the family they can have comfort in knowing their kid is going to be OK and they don’t need to come to the office.”

Burgert said parents sometimes overreact because the rash gets more prominent when the skin gets warm, like when a kid plays outside or takes a bath. But that’s normal. The infection sometimes causes joint pain, which she said can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers.

Parents should be on the lookout for significant muscle or joint pain, or other symptoms like headache and vomiting that can signal rare complications. Another danger is children spreading the virus to pregnant women, who can get anemia from it.

Fifth Disease is contagious and occurs in geographic clusters. Alan Clement, a pediatrician in Kansas City, Kan., said he had not seen it lately. A spokeswoman for Children’s Mercy Hospital said the hospital’s infectious disease department is seeing the illness in numbers consistent with year-over-year spring spikes.

Andy Marso: 816-234-4055, @andymarso