“Why is it called Fifth Disease?”

A 16 month old child with Fifth Disease (aka S...

16-month-old child with Fifth Disease

The Four-Year-Old was diagnosed with Fifth Disease last week. Fifth Disease is one of those deliciously mild childhood illnesses that nearly all of us get at one point or another, that are most contagious before any symptoms appear, and that clear up (in most cases) on their own. (The exception is for pregnant women, who need to talk to their OB if they are exposed to Fifth Disease during their pregnancy.)

In my daughter’s case, the symptoms appeared as crankiness two weekends ago, and a rash that appeared on her cheeks last Monday and spread to her arms and legs last Wednesday. That’s it. By the time the rash clued me in to the fact that she was sick, she was no longer contagious and back to feeling great. (Loyal readers will be glad to know that the Monday Night Sproing Cat Ballet Recital was held as planned.)

But in all the shuttling to and from the doctor last week, my daughter had plenty of time to ask questions, including “Why is it called Fifth Disease?”

If Fifth Disease doesn’t win the prize for Most Literal Name in Medicine outright, it should at least be given an Honorable Mention. Turns out Fifth Disease earned its name because it was the fifth in a series of very similar-looking rashes to be identified by doctors. The rest of the series includes measles (Rubeola), scarlet fever (Scarlatina), German measles (3-day measles, rubella) and Dukes’ disease.

Thank goodness The Four-Year-Old didn’t get any of those.


About Shala Howell

Writer of things ranging from optical network switching white papers to genetic testing patient education materials to historical fiction set in an 1880s asylum. When I’m not scratching my head over pesky characters who refuse to do things how I want them done or dreaming of my next book (which will of course be much easier to write than the current one), my writerly self can be found blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, or musing about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.wordpress.com.
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One Response to “Why is it called Fifth Disease?”

  1. Pingback: Getting to Know Fifth Disease or Slapped Cheek Syndrome | My Blog

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