Is this Rash Scabies or Fifth Disease?

Scabies is a very itchy, bumpy, lightly pink rash that can occur anywhere on the body — although not usually on the face — especially in the folds at the waistband, under the arms and between the fingers.

Scabies is actually an infestation by a skin mite so tiny that it can be seen only with a microscope. The treatment is usually to use an insecticide lotion such as permethrin or lindane on the skin, and then to bathe and to use clean clothing and bedding.

Scabies treatment is usually quite effective, but sometimes the child will have scratched the skin so much that the skin is irritated and continues to itch. You can use a mild lotion to relieve the itching. If the itching persists, call your doctor to see if your daughter should be seen again or retreated, or whether another medication might be useful for relieving the itch. Please do not use the insecticide lotion a second time unless your doctor specifically recommends it.

The rash of fifth disease is usually very different from scabies. Fifth disease is an old term for a rash caused by the human parvovirus. It is a very common infection in young children.

The rash of fifth disease often appears as very bright red cheeks (“slapped cheeks”) and a lacy, non-raised rash on the tops of the arms and legs and occasionally on the trunk. The rash isn’t itchy and children don’t seem ill or have fever. Fifth disease usually requires no treatment — just avoid exposure to the sun, which makes most viral rashes more prominent. The fifth-disease rash should fade within five to seven days.

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