Category Archives: headache

Fifth disease: What is it? When to call the doctor.


Fifth disease was given its name because it’s the fifth in a list of viruses that can cause rashes in children (the other four are chicken pox, rubella, measles and roseola). Its other name is Parvovirus B19. This might sound a little scary to you, since you may have heard of a canine parvovirus that is very serious for dogs. While in the same family as the canine virus, Parvovirus B19 is only a human virus and cannot be transmitted either from dogs to people or from people to dogs. In children, Parvovirus B19—fifth disease—is relatively common and generally quite benign.


Fifth disease in children is not usually dangerous, unless the child has anemia or an autoimmune disease. It’s contagious through the droplets of coughing and sneezing or through saliva (or from a pregnant mother to her fetus), and can show up 4 to14 days after exposure. Frequent hand washing is the best way to reduce the spread of viruses.


The first symptoms are similar to those of a cold: runny nose; mild fever; itching; soreness; headache. A few children experience achy joints.


After a week or so, a red rash may appear on the cheeks. It may, over the next few days, also appear on the torso and arms, buttocks and thighs. Within another week, the rash will likely fade. It might return, even months later, when the child gets overheated. By the time the rash appears, the child is no longer contagious.


When should you call our office? If your child has anemia, especially sickle cell anemia, or an autoimmune condition, call right away. Fifth disease can be dangerous for these patients. Also, if your child develops joint swelling or if symptoms worsen over time instead of improving, call us.


In normal cases, we treat symptoms with acetaminophen to reduce fever, or antihistamines to control itching. However, sickle cell patients and some others may need to be hospitalized because the blood counts can be seriously compromised. A pregnant woman with fifth disease should also be seen by a physician, because serious complications can occur.


Most of the information in this article came from the American Academy of Pediatrics article on the subject, which you can read here.


Fifth disease is more common late winter through spring, so you may want to keep an eye out for it this time of year. The good news is that most children will develop only mild symptoms that will go away without treatment.




© MBS Writing Services, 2015, all rights reserved



My head hurts!

A headache is a common complaint for some children and teens, and nearly all kids will get one every now and then.  Causes are numerous.  Usually, a headache is nothing to worry about, though there are times when you should go to the ER or call your doctor immediately (see below).

Headaches can be caused by things like strong smells, stress and anxiety, a cold or the flu, allergies, even changes in the weather.  Other common causes include:

  • Hormonal changes.  Puberty is often a time when headaches begin or worsen.
  • Diet.  Nitrates and caffeine, in particular, can cause headaches at any age.  Does your child or teen get a headache several hours after drinking a caffeinated beverage?  Or eating a hotdog?
  • Lack of enough sleep.  Make sure your child gets an age-appropriate amount of sleep every night.

Some children have migraines, which can (but don’t always) run in families.  The pain can be strong and on one side of the front of the head or the other.  Your child may express a need to lie still in a dark room, and other symptoms may include nausea.

If your child’s headaches are not severe, pay attention to patterns before coming to the see the doctor.  Keep a diary of food and beverage intake (paying special attention to caffeine and nitrates), amount of sleep, allergy attacks, even weather conditions.

There’s an app for that.  Here are a couple of phone apps that can help you keep a headache diary to determine what some of your triggers (causes) might be.

If headaches are bad and persistent, see your pediatrician.

Keep in mind there are times when you should seek medical help immediately.

  • If your child has suffered a blow to the head in an activity, fall, or accident and has a headache.  This could be a sign of concussion.
  • If the headache is severe and other symptoms include high fever.
  • If the pain is sudden and severe.
  • If the headache awakens the child at night.
  • If the headache is accompanied by dizziness, weakness, or other neurological symptoms.

By paying attention, you may be able to help your child or teen reduce their number of headaches, and if they are severe, to get help immediately.


© 2014 MBS Writing Services, all rights reserved