Feb 23, 2019
If you have a small child in Japan these days, you've probably heard of Ringo Byo, or Apple disease, also known as Slapped Cheek or Fifth Disease in English. I was warned that this was spreading at an epidemic rate and was concerned as any parent would be.
The thing is, once you look up the symptoms and such, it isn't such a scary illness. Mild cold or flu-like symptoms affect the child for a few days with a low-grade fever and then red cheeks appear, making the child look as if they have been slapped. A web-like rash can also appear on the arms, legs, and torso.
Yep, that looks like a slapped cheek. Not just white and cold today. Actually sick.
Because of her Caucasian heritage, my kid's cheeks get red any time she is in cold weather, much the same as my own. It is for this reason as well as the lack of other serious symptoms that we appear to have missed the beginning of this illness. She has had some excess mucus, but so do I every time the weather changes or it gets cold. The normal signs of illness in our house-- sluggishness, fever, grumpiness-- never came into play. We were watching and waiting and hoping for the best and somehow she was sick the whole time without our knowing it.
Ringo Byo is only contagious for a short time after initial exposure, right around the same time the fever we never noticed was likely to have been occurring. By the time her cheeks were red enough for her school to make a phone call home, the contagious element was gone completely. We were warned to keep her in low-activity situations for the next week or so while her cheeks return to normal. If she spends too much time getting hot and bothered, it will apparently be harder to get rid of the associated rash.
Luckily, since she was no longer contagious, my child was allowed to return to school where she can play with her friends without fear of making them sick as well. It seems like more and more of the kids on the bus route have gotten over their own illnesses too. After weeks of seeing the bus come by less than half-full, I have rejoiced in seeing seemingly everyone coming back from their own cases of the dreaded apple illness.
A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.