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Roseola: Picture, symptoms & treatment

Roseola is a viral illness that usually affects children between the ages of six months and two years. It is typically marked by several days of high fever, followed by a pinkish-red flat or raised rash that appears on the child's torso and spreads over the body as the fever breaks.

Photo of Roseola Infantum Skin Rash on Baby

What causes roseola?

Roseola is caused by the human herpes virus type 6 (HHV-6). Roseola is contagious and spreads through tiny drops of fluid from the nose and throat of infected people, often before they have developed symptoms.

What are the symptoms of roseola?

In most cases, a child with roseola develops a mild upper- respiratory illness, followed by a high temperature, a temperature over 37.5°C in children is considered a fever. The child may be irritable during this time, have a poor appetite and swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck.

In many cases, the high temperature abruptly stops and a rash appears on the child's torso. The rash is made up of flat or raised pinkish-red spots that turn white when touched. Individual spots may have lighter areas around them. Usually, the rash spreads to the face, legs, arms and neck.

How is roseola diagnosed?

A doctor will take a history and do a physical examination. A diagnosis of roseola is often uncertain until the fever goes down and a rash appears.

How is roseola treated?

In most cases, roseola does not require treatment other than trying to bring down a high temperature. Antibiotics cannot treat roseola because it is caused by a virus.

Paracetamol or ibuprofen can help to reduce your child's fever. Do not give aspirin to children under 16 years of age because doing so has been associated with the development of Reye Syndrome, which can lead to liver failure. Removing clothing and keeping the environment cool can help keep a child comfortable and help the temperature return to normal. Ice, cold water, alcohol rubs, and cold baths should be avoided.

Encourage your child to drink water or clear broth. Fluids decrease the risk of dehydration.

Seek medical advice if your child is lethargic, not drinking or if you cannot keep the fever down. Seek emergency care immediately if your child has a seizure.

Can roseola be prevented?

There is no known way to prevent the spread of roseola, but since the infection usually affects young children, it is thought that exposure in childhood may provide some lasting immunity. Repeat cases of roseola may occur, but are not common.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on January 12, 2016

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