What is roseola?
- Roseola is a mild illness caused by a virus infection most commonly involving, young children.
- A sudden high fever that lasts for three to five days is an early feature of roseola. Mild nasal congestion and loose stools may accompany the fever.
- When the fever disappears, a rash appears, which may last one to two days. The rash is not contagious.
- Roseola usually resolves without any treatment.
What is roseola?
Roseola is a temporary illness caused by one of two viruses. Characteristically, roseola has a sudden onset and relatively short duration. Roseola is most common in children 6 to 24 months of age, with the average age around 9 months. Less frequently, older children, teens, and (rarely) adults may be infected.
What are the symptoms for roseola?
If your child is exposed to someone with roseola and becomes infected with the virus, it generally takes a week or two for signs and symptoms of infection to appear — if they appear at all. It's possible to become infected with roseola, but have signs and symptoms too mild to be readily noticeable. Roseola symptoms may include:
- Fever. Roseola typically starts with a sudden, high Fever — often greater than 103 F (39.4 C). Some children also may have a sore throat, runny nose or cough along with or preceding the fever. Your child may also develop Swollen lymph nodes in his or her neck along with the fever. The Fever lasts three to five days.
- Rash. Once the Fever subsides, a Rash typically appears — but not always. The Rash consists of many small pink spots or patches. These spots are generally flat, but some may be raised. There may be a white ring around some of the spots. The Rash usually starts on the chest, back and abdomen and then spreads to the neck and arms. It may or may not reach the legs and face. The rash, which isn't itchy or uncomfortable, can last from several hours to several days before fading.
Other signs and symptoms of roseola may include:
- Irritability in infants and children
- Mild diarrhea
- Decreased appetite
- Swollen eyelids
When to see a doctor
Seek immediate medical care
Your child could have a convulsion (febrile seizure) if his or her Fever becomes high or spikes quickly. However, usually by the time you notice your child's high temperature, the threat of a possible seizure has already passed. If your child does have an unexplained seizure, seek medical care immediately.
Call your child's doctor
Call your child's doctor if:
- Your child has a Fever greater than 103 F (39.4 C)
- Your child has roseola and the Fever lasts more than seven days
- The Rash doesn't improve after three days
Call your doctor
If your immune system is compromised and you come in contact with someone who has roseola, contact your doctor. You may need monitoring for a possible infection that, for you, could be more severe than it is for a child.
What are the causes for roseola?
The most common cause of roseola is the human herpes virus 6, but the cause also can be another herpes virus — human herpes virus 7.
Like other viral illnesses, such as a common cold, roseola spreads from person to person through contact with an infected person's respiratory secretions or saliva. For example, a healthy child who shares a cup with a child who has roseola could contract the virus.
Roseola is contagious even if no rash is present. That means the condition can spread while an infected child has only a fever, even before it's clear that the child has roseola. Watch for signs of roseola if your child has interacted with another child who has the illness.
Unlike chickenpox and other childhood viral illnesses that spread rapidly, roseola rarely results in a communitywide outbreak. The infection can occur at any time of the year.
What are the treatments for roseola?
If the fever is not causing the child to be uncomfortable, the fever need not be treated. It is not necessary to awaken the child to treat a fever unless instructed to do so by a health-care professional.
If you wish to treat the fever, acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) can be used. The dosage interval is every four hours. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) may be used in lieu of acetaminophen on an every six-hour basis. Both types of medication are equally effective in lowering a child's fever. There is no medical benefit alternating acetaminophen with ibuprofen. Aspirin should never be used for fever in children or adolescents.
A child with a fever should be kept comfortable and not be overdressed. Overdressing can cause the temperature to go higher. Bathing with tepid water (85 F or 29.5 C) may help bring down a fever. If a child develops shivering during the bath, the temperature of the bath water should be raised. Never sponge a child (or an adult) with alcohol; the alcohol fumes may be inhaled, causing many problems.
What are the risk factors for roseola?
Older infants are at greatest risk of acquiring roseola because they haven't had time yet to develop their own antibodies against many viruses. While in the uterus, babies receive antibodies from their mothers that protect them as newborns from contracting infections, such as roseola. But this immunity decreases with time. The most common age for a child to contract roseola is between 6 and 15 months.