Fifth disease, also known as erythema infectiosum or slapped cheek disease, tends to affect school-age children the most. It presents itself as a bright red rash on the cheeks and will later progress down the entire body. Symptoms are generally mild, and include headaches, fever and runny nose. (You may actually think you've got a common cold!) If you see these symptoms followed by a red rash on your child's face and body, you're dealing with Fifth disease. Here's how to treat it.
Decide if it's safe to send your child to school. Once a child becomes symptomatic with Fifth disease, they are no longer contagious. However, Fifth disease can have devastating effects on unborn children. If you suspect that your child might have contracted Fifth disease, keep him home for a few days, especially if there are pregnant women at your child's school. Fifth disease can cause fetal death in pregnant women without immediate treatment by a health care provider, and this is something that can be prevented by watchful parents.
If you feel that your child has already passed the infectious stage of Fifth disease, it should be okay to send him to school. Just let the secretary know that your child has Fifth disease so that other parents in the class can be warned to look for symptoms.
Treat the rash with oatmeal. If you find that your child's rash progresses to a painful state, an oatmeal bath should help. Itchy rashes can be soothed with traditional oatmeal baths, or with store-bought ones like Aveeno (which shouldn't clog your drain). If you plan on using oatmeal from your own pantry, ensure that you place something over the drain to catch the oatmeal before you drain the tub (like a nylon or a drain filter) so that your pipes don't get jammed with gooey oatmeal.
Lotions also help with pain relief. Another remedy to help treat Fifth disease is lotion specifically meant to relieve itching. Choose lotions that are scent-free though, so that your child's skin isn't irritated any further. Put lotion on your child's body several times throughout the day until the itching subsides. And urge your child not to scratch himself so that the rash doesn't spread and scars won't develop.
Treat symptoms with medication. A child with Fifth disease is likely also suffering physical ailments like fever and general aches and pains. Children's strength ibuprofen or acetaminophen should reduce all of these symptoms until the disease passes.
Avoid the heat. While you are treating your child's Fifth disease, keep your child out of the direct heat of the sun. Heat, sweat, and sunlight are all known to aggravate the rash, prolonging the healing process. Let your child stay cool indoors, and allow him to wear little clothing so that the rash will dry out. Excessive moisture or bodily oils will only cause the disease to stick around. Treat the rash with lotions and cool, dry air and your child should recover from Fifth disease in a few weeks.