What is roseola?

Roseola is a viral illness that results in a viral exanthem. Exanthem is another name for a rash or skin eruption. Roseola is a contagious disease marked by a high fever and a rash that develops as the fever decreases. The disease is also called roseola infantum, because it most commonly affects infants and older babies. 

What causes roseola?

Roseola is probably caused by more than one virus. The most common cause appears to be human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6). It occurs mostly in children younger than age 3. It occurs throughout the year.

What are the symptoms of roseola?

It may take between five to 15 days for a child to develop symptoms of roseola after being exposed to the disease. A child is probably most contagious during the period of high fever, before the rash occurs. The following are the most common symptoms of roseola. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • High fever that starts abruptly and may reach 105 degrees F 

  • Fever lasts three to seven days and then abruptly goes away 

  • Irritability

  • Swelling of the eyelids

  • Rash (as the fever decreases, a pink rash, with either flat or raised lesions, starts to appear on the trunk and then spreads to the face, arms, and legs)

The most serious complication of roseola is febrile seizures. As the child's temperature becomes high, there is a chance that the child will have a seizure.

The symptoms of roseola may resemble other skin conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.

How is roseola diagnosed?

Roseola is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination of your child. The rash of roseola that follows a high fever is unique, and suggests the diagnosis simply on physical examination.

What is the treatment for roseola?

Specific treatment for roseola will be determined by your child's doctor based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment for roseola is to help decrease the severity of the symptoms. Since it is a viral infection, there is no cure for roseola. Treatment may include:

  • Increased fluid intake

  • Acetaminophen for fever (DO NOT GIVE ASPIRIN)

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