What is sixth disease?

Sixth disease is a mild infection that normally affects younger children. Most children will get sixth disease at least once by the time they start kindergarten. The disease is typically mild, but some cases may be more severe.hh6

What causes sixth disease?

The most common cause of sixth disease is the human herpes 6 (HH6) virus.

How is sixth disease transmitted?

Sixth disease spreads from person-to-person through saliva or respiratory secretions.  It is contagious even if no rash is present.

What are the symptoms of sixth disease?

Symptoms usually develop 1-2 weeks after exposure to the virus. Some signs may not be noticeable. Symptoms may include:

  • High fever
  • Mild sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rash – small, pink spots on body, neck, arms, legs, face
  • Irritability
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Swollen eyelids

Who is most at risk for sixth disease?

Children between the age of 6-15 months are at the highest risk for sixth disease. People with weakened immune systems are also at higher risk.

What complications are associated with sixth disease?

Children can have seizures caused by high fever. In otherwise healthy children, seizures are normally non-life threatening and short-lived, although you should seek emergency medical care if your child experiences a seizure. People with weakened immune systems can experience more severe cases of sixth disease leading to illnesses such as pneumonia and encephalitis.

How is sixth disease diagnosed?

Sixth disease can be difficult to diagnose, because early symptoms can be similar to those of other illnesses. A doctor may recommend that you watch for the telltale rash while you treat symptoms at home.  In other cases, a doctor can diagnose based off of the rash or by taking a blood test.

How is sixth disease treated?

There is no specific treatment for sixth disease. Most children will recover within a week of fever.  Pain relievers can be given to children to help reduce their fever.  Avoid aspirin as this can cause Reye’s syndrome.  Antibiotics may be given to patients with weakened immune systems.

How can sixth disease be prevented?

The best way to prevent sixth disease is to avoid contact with infected persons.  Most people who have had sixth disease once will not get it a second time.

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