Roseola is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It mainly affects children between 6 months and 2 years of age. The vast majority of children will have roseola before they turn 4. It is very uncommon after this age.
Not all children who get roseola develop symptoms. The disease is usually harmless. When symptoms do occur, they include the following:
- High fever, usually lasting 3-5 days
- When the fever subsides, small pink spots develop on the child's face and body. They usually appear on the face, arms, legs, and neck. The spots may last anywhere from a few hours to 2 days. They don't itch.
- General healthy appearance
- Despite their fever, the child seems well. They may become irritable when their fever peaks.
- Slightly runny nose, sore throat, or swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Complications of roseola are very rare. The high fever may cause seizures in some children.
Symptoms appear 5-15 days after exposure to the virus. Roseola lasts 3-7 days.
Causes and triggers
Roseola is caused by human herpesvirus 6, a member of the human herpesvirus family.
It is not very contagious. The virus is present in throat and nose secretions. Transmission can occur in two ways:
- Through direct contact with the saliva of an infected person
- Through indirect contact with infected droplets coughed into the air by an infected person
Children with roseola develop immunity to the virus and will therefore catch it only once.
Roseola does not require treatment. The disease clears up on its own after a few days. Most children feel well and don't need to see a health care professional.
You can give your child medication (e.g., Tylenol, Advil) to control their fever if they seem uncomfortable. However, treating the fever isn't necessary if your child is in good spirits. Give them fluids frequently to keep them well hydrated.
When should I see a health care professional?
You should consult your health care provider in the following cases:
- Your child has a fever for more than 3 days
- Your child has a fever and is under 3 months of age
- Your child is drowsy or isn't drinking enough fluids
- Your child has a seizure