No – it isn’t what you think it is! Slapped Cheek Syndrome is a virus that mostly affects children and gets its name from the bright red rash that develops on both cheeks.
The condition is caused by the parvovirus B19 virus. Symptoms of slapped cheek syndrome usually begin in the first couple of weeks after your child has been exposed to the virus and they generally come in these 3 stages:
Your child may experience mild flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature of 38C, a sore throat, an upset stomach, headache, and feeling tired. These symptoms don’t occur in every child, or they may be very mild. Remember, your child will be most contagious during this stage!
Between 3 to 7 days after the symptoms start, your child will develop a bright red rash on both cheeks.
These symptoms usually begins 1 to 4 days after the appearance of the “slapped cheek” rash, with the rash usually spreading to the child’s chest, stomach, arms and thighs. The rash usually has a raised, lace-like appearance and may cause itching and discomfort. At this stage, your child should no longer be contagious and won’t be passing the infection onto others.
After stage three, the rash should pass after a few days. In rare cases it can last up to four or five weeks.
Adults can also catch the virus
In adults, the most common symptom of a parvovirus B19 infection in adults is joint pain and stiffness in your hands, wrists, knees and ankles. Other symptoms, such as developing a fever and sore throat, are rare in adults. In most people, the symptoms of a parvovirus B19 infection will pass within one to three weeks, although one-in-five adults will experience recurring episodes of joint pain and stiffness for several months, sometimes years.
It usually takes a few weeks for the body’s own defences to fight off the virus, and you can use over-the-counter medications to treat symptoms such a s fever or sore throat.
When to seek medical advice
Slapped cheek syndrome in children and parvovirus B19 infection in adults is usually mild and the infection should clear up without treatment. Pregnant women, people with chronic anaemia, people with a weakened immune system as a result of a condition such as HIV or acute leukaemia, and patients receiving chemotherapy or steroid medication should see their doctor immediately.
Joanne Hart for HelloDoctor.com