Fifth disease is sometimes difficult to diagnose because it looks like other rash-causing diseases. The most obvious symptom of the infection is a distinctive red rash that appears on the cheeks, causing a person to look freshly slapped. This redness can eventually extend to other parts of the body, including the arms, chest, thighs and buttocks. However, the rash associated with fifth disease doesn't show up until a few days after infection [source: Mayo Clinic: Parvovirus].
Before the rash appears, there are a number of other symptoms that could also point to fifth disease. These include an upset stomach, headaches, fatigue, itching, sore throat, slight fever and other cold-like symptoms [source: Center for Disease Control]. Typically, these symptoms last seven to 10 days without serious problems, although the rash can hang around for up to three weeks [source: Mayo Clinic: Parvovirus].
Though fifth disease is typically mild, it can lead to more severe complications. If a person has sickle cell anemia, for example, fifth disease can lead to serious anemia -- a deficient level of red blood cells. For those who have a weakened immune system, all symptoms of fifth disease can be much more severe. In these cases, people may have to seek medical care or be hospitalized to help treat the infection [source: Mayo Clinic: Parvovirus].
Now that you know how fifth disease affects the body, you'd probably like to know how a person contracts it. Keep reading to find out whether or not fifth disease is contagious.