Fifth Disease and Return to School

Many parents start off with little or no knowledge of fifth disease until a child contracts it and they are told by the school or doctor. It can be quite alarming, especially when the school rings you up and tells you "your child has fifth disease please come and pick them up immediately". When faced with this situation, parents can panic at the word "disease" and start imagining the worst. In fact, it's quite wrong for a school to suggest that your child must be isolated at home by the time fifth disease is noticeable. If your child has fifth disease and return to school is being frowned upon, that is wrong.

Fifth disease is often diagnosed by the bright red rash on the cheeks. By the time your child has developed this symptom, they are no longer contagious. Because this disease is contagious, many people do not understand that it is only before the rash appears and this leads to concern over whether or not the child should be in school.

Return to Schoold with Fifth Disease

This is also contrary to what the Latin name should suggest. The name Erythema Infectiosum literally means infectious redness, however the disease is not infectious during the rash stage.

Another point to note is that the illness is usually cold or flu-like to start off with and by the time the rash appears the sufferer is feeling healthy and energetic as usual. It will therefore seem a little over the top to take your child home for redness in the skin. It is therefore advisable that once the rash symptom of fifth disease is visible, you should allow your child to return to school as normal as further isolation is neither beneficial to the other children in the school nor to your own child.

If your child has not developed a rash yet, chance are you wont realise it is fifth disease anyway, and the symptoms such as sore throat, runny nose and high temperature would prompt you to keep the child at home until they feel better anyway. Therefore, the child would usually be isolated during the infectious period of the disease naturally and once they feel better, the rash develops and they can return to school.

Some people do not exhibit any symptoms of fifth disease or the symptoms are so mild they are unnoticed as an illness. In these cases the contagious period is irrelevant as we would not know when to isolate the child or even that we should.

It is also worth noting that fifth disease is by no means a serious illness in the majority of children and only very rare serious conditions can occur in people who already suffer from a blood disease. There is no cure for fifth disease and no vaccination. There is only bed rest and pampering and the sufferer will soon feel better in a matter of days. This is not accounting for any extra sick days they try to guilt you into of course.

In summary, it's advisable to keep your child in school or let them return once the flu symptoms pass.