slapped cheek syndrome:
fifth disease symptoms and treatment

Slapped cheek syndrome is a mild (but a little scary looking) viral infection that's quite common in children and babies. The good news is that it usually runs its course without complications, but in some cases, you might want to seek some professional advice just to be on the safe side.

baby with slapped cheek syndrome

what are the symptoms of slapped cheek syndrome?

The clue is in the name for this particular illness. As you've probably guessed, the main symptom is the bright red, itchy rash that develops on both of your little one's cheeks. It isn't contagious at this point that part comes a little earlier, when symptoms include a sore throat, runny nose, sore tummy, headache and/ or a mild fever (38°C).[1]

The cheek rash can spread to the rest of the body, and looks a little like chicken pox with lots of raised, itchy dots.

when should i ring the doctor?

The good news is that your child won't usually need to see their GP if they have slapped cheek syndrome. However, you might need to if you're pregnant, a sufferer of severe anaemia, if you have a blood disorder or you have a weakened immune system.

However, it's always a good idea to bring your baby to the doctor if you're worried about them feeling poorly. Making an appointment can help reassure you that it's nothing more serious and set your mind at rest.

what causes slapped cheek syndrome?

Slapped cheek syndrome is caused by parvovirus B19.[2] It spreads through coughs and sneezes, so that old nursery rhyme about them spreading diseases was right on the money. You catch it by breathing in water droplets from sneezes and coughs, or touching surfaces that the droplets have landed on.

can i cure slapped cheek syndrome at home?

There's not really a cure for slapped cheek syndrome, but it usually runs its course after a couple of weeks. Unless they're feeling very poorly, you won't need to keep them away from school or nursery when the rash develops.

Make sure they get plenty of rest and drink lots of water, and give them paracetamol or ibuprofen for any headaches or a fever.[3] Remember also that children under the age of 16 shouldn't have aspirin. If they're really itchy, speak to your pharmacist about antihistamines (or just break out some good old-fashioned calamine lotion).

is there any way to avoid catching slapped cheek syndrome?

By the time the most distinctive symptom appears, it's already too late to pop the infected child into quarantine. The only way you can reduce the chances of it spreading is by making sure you carefully disinfect any surfaces someone has sneezed or coughed near. This also means teaching your little ones to practice good hygiene by covering their mouth and nose when they sneeze and washing their hands afterwards.

Once the rash appears, you may want to warn anyone your baby has come into contact with over the past week, as there may be a few more red cheeks popping up here and there.


[1]. Slapped cheek syndrome, NHS, [Accessed May 2019]

[2]. Slapped cheek syndrome, Baby Centre, March 2018

[3]. Slapped cheek syndrome in babies and toddlers, Emma's Diary, [Accessed May 2019]