Arlo had a really rotten cold the week before his birthday. By the time the actual day came around, he still had a major case of the sniffles, but was back to full energy. So we assumed he was getting better. We didn’t realise that the cold was the start of Slapped Cheek, or Fifth Disease, to use the proper term.

He was unusually fussy in the afternoon on the day after his birthday. We put this down to tiredness after all the excitement. He had a little cat-nap in my arms. By the time he woke, he was miserable and burning up. He went from normal temperature to 38.5 in less than half an hour. Even though I’ve experienced it twice now with Arlo, and was told by the nurses in a&e, I still can’t believe just how quickly babies can go from being fine to definitely not fine.

His cheeks were bright red. Like he was blushing. This hadn’t happened the last time he had a temperature. There was a worrying moment where he went very floppy and unresponsive in Sam’s arms. His head just sort of lolled back and it was like he was in a trance. I think he was just really tired and hot, but it was quite scary there for a few minutes. It wasn’t long before he was alert and back in the room again, so NHS direct didn’t think it was cause for too much concern and just asked that we keep monitoring him and call back if there were any changes to his condition. It seems that Arlo has the ability to spike a really high temperature in next to no time, so I now know to be on the look out for this.

The next day, Arlo still had a high temperature, but the bright red cheeks had disappeared. Sam left on a business trip, Arlo and I took it easy. That night was horrific. Arlo would not settle, refused to feed, and was waking every hour or so. At 4.30am, I gave up and took him downstairs to start our day really early. With the lights on downstairs, I noticed that his cheeks had come up in a rash. We are very used to Arlo having rashes, especially on his cheeks, but this didn’t look like his typical eczema rash. Sam had googled Slapped Cheek when Arlo’s cheeks first went bright red, now I really suspected that this was what we were dealing with. Twitter and the GP agreed.

We had been hanging out with my pregnant friend in the period when Arlo would have been most contagious, which is before the rash shows up. Unfortunately, Slapped Cheek can be a danger to pregnancy. I found it very hard to say that we might have caused a potential danger to her baby, but obviously she needed to know straight away. She is getting a blood test to check her immunity. I also let all of the parents we’d been in contact with over Arlo’s birthday celebrations know to look out for early symptoms in their children.

Throughout that day, the rash spread to Arlo’s body, and by the evening his arms, legs, and trunk were covered. At some point, he also developed blisters on his hands and feet (and also in his mouth, I think). The blisters are more indicative of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease rather than Slapped Cheek, which is a bit confusing. After a couple of days, the rash was all over his body. I cannot stress the all over bit enough.

He didn’t really feed much during the week he had the cold, his nose was so blocked that he found it hard to breath when feeding. And then he stopped feeding completely the week after, so he went a whole two weeks without a proper milk feed. I felt so sorry for him as he desperately wanted to feed, but I think he had mouth sores. He’d try to latch on, straight away pull off and wince in pain. Arlo’s refusal to feed made it very difficult to get him to sleep, as that is still our usual method for night wakings. He wasn’t too happy to be held, but he’d eventually drop off in a cradle hold, after a good half an hour of walking, whispered songs, and back pats. This was happening every hour and a half for three days, which meant I never got any more than one hour of sleep at a time. It was exhausting.

But then just when I had really reached the end of my tether and felt I too was getting ill, the cavalry arrived home from Turkey and took over the night shifts for a few days.

It took about a week for Arlo to start feeling better. He still has the rash on his face, although it’s fading on his body. It doesn’t look half as bad now. Aside from the brief interval that was Arlo’s birthday party, we had two whole weeks quarantined in the house. It would be an understatement to say that we are both eager to get out and start doing some activities again.

And I am sick of Cbeebies.

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