Slapped cheek disease or fifth disease (Parvovirus) factsheet


Slapped cheek disease is a viral (spreadable) disease. It gets this name because, early in the infection, the child's cheeks may be bright red, as if they have been slapped.  

It is also known as Fifth disease. Fifth disease mainly affects school and pre-school aged children, and commonly causes outbreaks in schools. Most adults are immune, having already had the infection when they were children.  

The virus is transmitted in droplets coughed out by infected children. 

 Signs and symptoms

In Fifth disease, children may get a runny nose, fever, aches and pains, and rash. At first the rash may be on the cheeks (slapped cheek appearance). After a few days a rash may be found on the arms, legs or trunk. It is pink, has a lacy appearance and may be itchy. It may fade easily, but re-appear after a bath or exercise.  

Older children and adults may sometimes get swollen joints (arthritis) which gets better after a few days. 


Your child’s doctor will be able to make a diagnosis, based on your child's signs and symptoms and/or after any appropriate tests.  


In most children, Fifth disease is a mild, flu-like illness, which gets better on its own in a few days. Most people who have had Fifth disease as children cannot get it again. 

Paracetamol is useful to relieve your child’s aches and pains. Give your child the dose that is recommended on the packaging for their age and weight. Your child should see a doctor if they have any swollen joints or pain not relieved by paracetamol. 


When to see a doctor 

  • if a pregnant woman becomes infected, the unborn baby can be severely affected. Pregnant women in contact with a child with Fifth disease should see their doctor for blood tests and monitoring of their pregnancy
  • children with haemolytic blood disorders or leukaemia must avoid children with Fifth disease. If they have had possible contact, please consult your doctor. 

Resources and more information

Healthdirect provides free, trusted health information and advice, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week online or via telephone 1800 022 022. 

Last updated Thursday 25th January 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024