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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Slapped cheek

Pāpāringa kua pakia

Slapped cheek is a viral infection caused by the parvovirus. It causes bright red cheeks and is most common in tamariki (children).

Some adults can get slapped cheek. If a woman catches slapped cheek during the first half of her pregnancy, there is a small risk of miscarriage. There is also a small risk of her baby getting anaemia from low iron levels.

Symptoms of slapped cheek

You usually get symptoms four to 20 days after being infected. Symptoms include a fever, runny nose, sore throat, headache and generally feeling unwell. In adults, symptoms can also include swollen, painful joints. These symptoms last for two to three days.

After a couple of days, a bright red rash appears on both cheeks. You can then get a pink, lacy-looking rash on your body, arms and legs. See DermNet for pictures of the rash. The rash usually lasts for two weeks but can come and go for six weeks. When the rash has appeared, you're no longer infectious, but you can pass slapped cheek on for five to six days before the rash appears.

Treating slapped cheek

Slapped cheek is usually a mild infection that clears up by itself.

The treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. Rest and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. You can take paracetamol to help relieve the symptoms.

Getting help for slapped cheek

If you're pregnant and have caught slapped cheek during the first half of your pregnancy, see your GP. You should also see your GP if you have a weakened immune system.

Avoiding the spread of slapped cheek

To reduce the risk of spreading the virus, it's important to have good hand hygiene. This includes washing your hands with soap and water, particularly after coughing or sneezing.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2022.


See also:

Eating and drinking when you're unwell

Page reference: 49711

Review key: HISCH-49711