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Slapped Cheek Syndrome

Erythema infectosium (Latin name)

By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

A mild children’s disease you only contract once in a lifetime.

Slapped cheek syndrome is caused by infection through a virus is also known as ‘fifth disease’. It is typically children who are old enough to attend school who get it. Slapped cheek syndrome is epidemic (many cases at the same time) and appears approximately every third year from late winter to early summer.

The illness is mild with children. Almost half of the children do not even notice that they have the illness. Some children have a fever and a red rash on both cheeks. The rash is similar to the redness that appears after a slapped cheek – hence the name. A few children feel ill, have pains all over the body and have a pale rash on the whole body. The illness is untreatable but disappears by itself.

Slapped cheek syndrome with pregnant women has gotten a lot of attention since it can pose a threat to a foetus. 2 out of 3 pregnant women has had slapped cheek syndrome as children, and since you can only contract the illness once in a lifetime the illness poses no threat to the majority of pregnant women. The problem is that only few know whether they have had slapped cheek syndrome. It is a problem solved with a blood sample. From the blood sample you can see whether the pregnant women has had the illness and therefore has no reason to worry.

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The illness infects through air – most often via spit and coughing. It takes 1 to 3 weeks from the child has been infected till it falls ill. Since children often infect each other before they fall ill, the illness is very hard to avoid.

Day care:
The child is kept at home until the temperature is normal and the child can participate in its usual activities without extra care.

What can you do?

If the child has a fever it must be dressed lightly and stay in a cool room. The child must have plenty to drink. There is no reason for isolating a child with slapped cheek syndrome. On the other hand, a child with slapped cheek syndrome should not be in direct contact with pregnant women.

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If the child has a fever and does not want to drink. If the child is less than 2 years old and the temperature is more than 39.0ºC. If you are pregnant and has been in direct contract with a child who has slapped cheek syndrome (with the intention of giving a blood sample).

Contact the doctor immediately

If the child seems drowsy.