Slap cheek, also known as fifth disease or erythema infectiosum, is a viral illness that commonly affects children but can also occur in adults. It gets its name from the bright red rash that appears on the cheeks, giving the impression that the child has been slapped. In this article, we will delve deeper into the question “How long does slap cheek last?” and explore the signs, symptoms, and treatment options available for this condition.
What are the Symptoms of Slap Cheek?
The symptoms of slap cheek can be different depending on the age of the infected person. In children, symptoms develop after an incubation period of 4 to 14 days, and may include:
- Sore throat
- Cold-like symptoms
- Redness and swelling of the cheeks
- A lacy red rash on the trunk, arms, and legs
The rash can spread to the buttocks, thighs, and back, and may be itchy. In adults, the infection may cause joint pain, particularly in the fingers, wrists, and knees, which can persist for weeks or even months. Additionally, women who are pregnant or have anemia may experience severe complications if infected with this virus.
How is Slap Cheek Diagnosed?
A doctor can diagnose slap cheek by examining the rash and taking the patient’s medical history. They may also order a blood test to confirm the presence of the virus. Since slap cheek is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not effective in treating the condition. However, certain antiviral medications may be used in severe cases of the infection. For most, treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms and making the person more comfortable during the recovery period.
How Long Does Slap Cheek Last?
Slap cheek can last anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks, with the red rash on the face usually resolving within a week. However, people with this condition may still experience joint pain for several weeks or even months after the rash has cleared up.
The infection is contagious during the period before the appearance of the rash and typically for up to a week after the rash has started to appear. It is advisable to stay at home during this time to avoid infecting others, particularly pregnant women or those with weakened immune systems.
Can Slap Cheek Recur?
In most cases, people who have had slap cheek develop immunity to the virus and are therefore unlikely to get it again. However, in rare cases, the virus can reactivate in people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or cancer, causing a second round of infection.
How is Slap Cheek Treated?
The treatment for slap cheek is aimed at helping relieve the symptoms while the body fights off the infection. Since this condition is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not effective. Treatment options include:
- Getting plenty of rest
- Drinking fluids to prevent dehydration
- Using over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, for fever and joint pain
- Applying cool compresses to the skin to relieve itching
- Using topical corticosteroid creams to reduce inflammation and itching
In severe cases, certain antiviral medications may also be prescribed by a doctor to help speed up recovery.
Slap cheek is usually a mild illness that goes away on its own within a few weeks. However, some people may experience complications, such as joint pain, which can last for several weeks or even months. Protecting yourself from infection through vaccinations, hand hygiene, and avoiding contact with infected persons can help significantly reduce the risk of getting infected with slap cheek.
Common Questions and Answers
How is slap cheek spread?
Slap cheek is spread through respiratory secretions, such as saliva and mucus, and through contact with infected blood. The virus can also be spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Can adults get slap cheek?
Yes, adults can get slap cheek. However, it is more common in children between the ages of 5 and 15.
Can you prevent slap cheek?
There is no vaccine available for slap cheek. The best way to prevent infection is to practice good hand hygiene, avoid contact with infected people and their belongings, and avoid crowded places during an outbreak.
Can you go to school or work with slap cheek?
It is recommended to stay at home until the rash has cleared up and the person is no longer contagious.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2021). Slapped cheek. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/slapped-cheek/symptoms-causes/syc-20376873
CDC. (2021). Fifth Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/parvovirusb19/fifth-disease.html