Roseola

Topic Overview

What is roseola?

Roseola (roseola infantum) is a mild illness caused by a virus. It is generally harmless and is most common in children 6 months to 2 years of age. It is rare after age 4.

What causes roseola?

Roseola is caused by two common viruses. The viruses belong to the family of herpes viruses, but they do not cause the cold sores or genital infections that herpes simplex viruses can cause. They are spread through tiny droplets of fluid from the nose and throat of infected people when they laugh, talk, sneeze, or cough. Roseola mostly spreads from infected people who don’t show symptoms.

If your child has roseola, keep him or her at home until there has been no fever for 24 hours and he or she is feeling better.

What are the symptoms of roseola?

Roseola often starts with a sudden high fever [103°F (39.4°C) to 105°F (40.6°C)] that lasts 2 to 3 days, although it can last up to 8 days. The rapid increase in temperature may be the first sign of roseola and often occurs before you realize that your child has a fever. The fever ends suddenly.

After the fever ends, a rosy-pink rash may appear mostly on the trunk (torso), neck, and arms. The rash is not itchy and may last 1 to 2 days.

In rare cases, a sore throat, stomach ache, vomiting, and diarrhea occur.

A child with roseola may appear fussy or irritable and may have a decreased appetite, but most children behave almost normally.

How is roseola diagnosed?

Roseola is diagnosed through a medical history and physical exam. The doctor often knows it's roseola if your child had a fever and now has a distinct rash.

How is roseola treated?

The roseola fever can be managed with acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), or sponge baths. If you give medicine to your baby, follow your doctor’s advice about what amount to give. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 years of age because of the risk of Reye syndrome.

The roseola rash will go away without medical treatment.

Should I worry if my child has roseola?

Roseola generally is a harmless viral infection. Like any illness that can cause a fever, it can cause fever seizures, which are uncontrolled muscle spasms and unresponsiveness that last 1 to 3 minutes. The fever seizure is caused by the rapid increase in temperature in a short period of time. After a fever has reached a high temperature, the risk of a seizure is probably over. Fever seizures are not a form of epilepsy. For more information, see the topic Fever Seizures.

Contact the doctor if:

  • Your child's rash gets worse.
  • Symptoms (such as a fever, a general feeling of illness, or signs of infection) are severe or become worse.
  • Symptoms become so uncomfortable that your child cannot tolerate them.
  • A new rash continues longer than 1 week.
  • A rash that has been previously diagnosed continues longer than 4 weeks or is not following the expected course.
  • Your child's symptoms become more severe or more frequent.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

KidsHealth for Parents, Children, and Teens
10140 Centurion Parkway North
Jacksonville, FL  32256
Phone: (904) 697-4100
Fax: (904) 697-4125
Web Address: www.kidshealth.org
 

This Web site is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It has a wide range of information about children's health, from allergies and diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This Web site offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can sign up to get weekly e-mails about your area of interest.


National Institutes of Health: Health Information
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD  20892
Phone: (301) 496-4000
TDD: (301) 402-9612
E-mail: NIHinfo@od.nih.gov
Web Address: http://health.nih.gov
 

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducts and supports medical research to improve people's health and save lives. NIH provides access to health and wellness information, free newsletters, current research, health databases, fact sheets, and many other resources.


References

Other Works Consulted

  • American Academy of Pediatrics (2006). Human herpesvirus 6 (including roseola) and 7. In LK Pickering, ed., Red Book: 2006 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, 27th ed., pp. 375–377. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Belazarian L, et al. (2008). Human herpesvirus 6 and human herpesvirus 7 sections of Exanthematous viral diseases. In K Wolff et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1864–1866. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Cherry JD (2004). Roseola infantum (exanthem subitum). In RD Feigin et al., eds., Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, 5th ed., vol. 1, pp. 772–776. Philadelphia: Saunders.
  • Wiss K (2006). Viral exanthems: Rubella, roseola, rubeola. In MG Lebwohl et al., eds., Treatment of Skin Disease, 2nd ed., pp. 675–677. London: Mosby Elsevier.

Credits

Author Debby Golonka, MPH
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
Last Updated August 6, 2008

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