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Help, my child has sixth disease!

Children face all kinds of different childhood diseases when they are still young. The cause is usually a virus, against which the young body has not yet produced antibodies. One of these childhood diseases is popularly known as ‘the sixth disease’ and is characterized by light red spots. What can you do about sixth disease?

Numbered diseases

Children often experience a number of childhood illnesses at a young age. A number of these diseases are characterized by spots. In ancient times these diseases were numbered. The first six in the row are:

  1. The measles
  2. Scarlet fever
  3. Rubella
  4. Filatov-Dukes disease (a variant of rubella )
  5. Erythema infectiosum
  6. Exanthema subitum (or also: roseola infantum)


Sixth disease

The sixth spot disease in this row is Exanthema subitum . That is a difficult name to remember or use, which is why we prefer to speak of the sixth disease , also called three-day fever . We also prefer to omit the more difficult name for number five on the list and simply call it fifth disease. The sixth disease is caused by a herpes virus (type 6). This virus is related to the virus that causes cold sores and genital herpes . But fortunately, after you have had the sixth disease , you will not have any recurring symptoms that you would have with, for example, a cold sore. The disease mainly occurs in children between six months and three years of age.


You can become infected with the sixth disease through moisture droplets in the air, caused by coughing, talking, sneezing or through your hands. Direct contact with the mouth (kissing, for example) is also a way to transmit the virus. The moment the first symptoms of illness begin, you are contagious to others. This will take approximately until the stains have disappeared again.sixth disease on arms, legs and back. / Source: M Davis, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)” onclick=”openImage(this);”>Characteristic spots of sixth disease on arms, legs and back. / Source: M Davis, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)


A fairly sudden high fever, which can last three to five days, is indicative of sixth disease . The fever can rise to around 40°. It is not yet clear why the fever rises so high. After the temperature drops again, small light red spots will appear on the body, especially the face and torso. These spots usually do not itch and disappear after a few days. The lymph nodes behind the ears and in the neck may swell somewhat. It is also possible that a throat infection or ear infection may occur. The child generally does not appear very ill and after a few days it is all over again.

To deal with

There is no cure for the sixth disease , but there is no need for one. The illness lasts for a week, after which your child will be completely better again. For many parents, a sudden high fever is often worrying, but in the case of the sixth disease, the fever did not actually have to be suppressed. Fever is in fact part of the immune system and indicates that the body is working to produce antibodies and fight the virus. If you have any doubts or concerns: always contact your doctor.


Vaccinations are available against many diseases. Thanks to such a vaccination, the body is stimulated to produce antibodies against a certain disease. There is no vaccination yet against sixth disease .


You have to be careful with some diseases when you are pregnant because of possible risks. This does not apply to sixth disease . There are no risks for pregnant women or unborn children.


Although you usually don’t need to suppress the fever, there are things you should pay attention to. For example, it is very important that your child continues to drink well . Drinking is then more important than eating. You can give a popsicle if you like. If the fever makes the child so hangry that drinking is not possible, it is probably better to use a fever reducer. Ask your doctor what you can best do here. Fever reducers, such as paracetamol, may also be available as a suppository. It is best to coordinate the dosage with your doctor.


If your child has a fever, it is also important that he or she can lose the heat built up due to the fever. So don’t dress your child too warmly and make sure he or she is not covered in thick warm blankets in bed. Maybe a sheet will suffice.


If the spots do itch, you can usually buy an anti-itch ointment or something similar at the pharmacy. You can also ask the pharmacy whether such products are necessary and how to use them.

Just do it

Your child will usually not feel very sick with sixth disease . It is not necessary to stay in bed, your child can also go outside. It is important that your child gets enough rest, but this is of course also the case with healthy children. Simply going to daycare or playgroup does not have to be a problem.

School, daycare center

Your child is already contagious before the disease became apparent. Any contamination of other children is therefore probably already behind us. Your child can go to school after the fever period. It is nice if you inform the teacher, toddler teacher or daycare center management.


As you have read, the sixth disease is not that serious and will go away on its own after a few days. If you have any doubts or are wondering whether this is a case of sixth disease , contact your doctor. He will be happy to answer all your questions about this.

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