Acute Illness - Slapped Cheek Disease

Slapped Cheek Disease is normally a mild, short viral illness. However, the rash may appear to be quite dramatic. It is caused by the Parovirus B19 virus and is most commonly seen in childhood.

Symptoms and Presentation

In children, the most common symptom is the appearance of a distinctive bright red rash one or both of the cheeks. This is how the condition got its name.  The condition can normally be diagnosed by assessment of the rash and further tests are not required.

Other symptoms can include fever, joint pains, headache, sore throat and runny nose. Sometimes the rash can spread to the arms and trunk although it tends to be much less distinctive on the trunk.

It is most contagious between days 4-20 before the rash develops and by the time the rash develops it is usually no longer infectious. It is spread by tiny airborne droplets in coughs and sneezes in a similar way to coughs and colds.  The best way to reduce spread of the condition is with good hygiene and hand washing.

It is most common in children between the ages of 3-15 years old.  Many adults will have contracted the illness in childhood, often without being aware of this and 60% of the population has immunity to the condition (and therefore cannot get it again). However, it can cause harm to an unborn baby so women who are pregnant and come into contact with people who have this illness need to seek medical advice usually in the form of a telephone consultation.  Other people who are at risk are those with a weakened immune system in particular those undergoing chemotherapy, or have a blood condition such as sickle- cell anaemia or thalassemia and if they think they may have been in contact with someone with the condition they should also discuss it with the GP; again telephone is usually the most appropriate way to discuss this with a medical professional.

It is seen most commonly between the months of April and May, although can develop at any time of year.

Treatment

Treatment for the condition is often not needed, as it is a mild condition, which passes within a few days of onset of symptoms. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used for a mild fever or joint pains.

You may not need to see the GP if you or your child develops this condition because of it’s mild nature, but please consider seeking advice if you develop a fever over 38 degrees C, or you (or your child’s) condition suddenly worsens or changes.