Roseola

Roseola is a contagious viral illness that results in a high fever and a rash that develops as the fever resolves. The disease is also called roseola infantum or sixth disease. It most commonly affects children between 3 months and 4 years of age.

Patients can be seen by Texas Children's experts in Infectious Disease.

Causes & Risk Factors

Roseola is a syndrome that can be caused by several common viruses. It may take between 5 to 15 days for a child to develop symptoms of roseola after being exposed to the virus. A child is probably most contagious during the period of high fever, before the rash occurs.

Symptoms & Types

The following are the most common symptoms of roseola:

  • High fever that starts suddenly
  • Fever may reach 105°F
  • Fever lasts 3 to 5 days and then abruptly goes away
  • Rash that appears as the fever decreases (a pink rash, with either flat or raised spots, usually starts on the trunk and lasts 1-2 days)
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Swollen glands
  • Ear pain
  • Decreased appetite

Febrile seizures are relatively common in children with roseola. Febrile seizures occur when a child's temperature rises rapidly. While febrile seizures are generally not harmful, they can be very scary. Not every child with a high temperature is at risk for a febrile seizure. Febrile seizures occur in about 3% of children under the age of 5 and may run in families.

The symptoms of roseola may look like other skin conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's health care provider for a diagnosis.

Diagnosis & Tests

Roseola is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical exam of your child. The rash of roseola that follows a high fever is unique to roseola.

Treatment & Care

The goal of treatment for roseola is to help decrease the severity of the symptoms. There is no cure for roseola, but in almost all cases the syndrome is self-limited and the prognosis is excellent. Treatment may include:

  • Increased fluid intake
  • Dress child with fever in light clothing
  • Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever (Do not give aspirin. Giving aspirin to children may cause a dangerous condition called Reye syndrome.)