Is Fifth Disease Contagious?

Many people are often confused with the phrase contagious fifth disease. Yes, the disease is contagious but it is not contagious throughout its entire duration.

The symptoms of fifth disease are much like the flu, it starts off with a mild fever, headaches and sometimes joint pain. In younger children it can resemble a cold with runny noses and sore throats. Some weeks after the child has contracted the disease it will develop a rash on the child's face. This is usually caused by the immune system responding to the virus.

This rash like symptom is also a clear indication that the disease is no longer contagious. This is also a clear sign that fifth disease is present and it is not just the flu, however by this time it is too late. If fifth disease is detected before a rash symptom appears it is advisable to keep the child at home and in bed. The best you can do when a child contracts this disease, is to give them plenty of rest and pampering. By the time the rash appears your child should be feeling back to normal health and much more energetic, so don't be afraid to send your child back to school (even though they may not want to go back of course).

Fifth Disease Contagious Some parents may be concerned about fifth disease when the rash symptom is visible, and this is due to the popular belief that fifth disease is contagious throughout its duration. If your school is concerned about the child returning, you can just explain to them that the disease is only contagious prior to the rash appearing. Remember, they are teaching experts, not medical experts and most people are unaware of what fifth disease is.

If you are concerned with other members of your household catching fifth disease you should encourage regular hand washing and also discourage the sharing of kitchen utensils such as drinking cups. In most cases the disease is only recognized once the rash symptom occurs so if anyone else was going to get the disease they would already have it. Signs of others having caught this disease will not show immediately. It can take anywhere between 4 and 20 days before symptoms show.

To summarize, fifth disease is contagious. However, if your child has a rash, the contagious period has passed and they may resume their usual daily activities such as school or day care. Once the rash has appeared the child will be feeling better and there is no danger in other children catching it. Other parents who have not encountered fifth disease before may be concerned, especially if their child contracts the disease soon after your child returns to school. This is due to the child having caught fifth disease from your child before anyone knew about it, and is not a result of your child returning to school. This is because it can take up to 20 days for the child to display the symptoms of fifth disease.