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What is Roseola?

Roseola is a common, mild viral infection (virus) affecting children between 4 months and 4 years of age (most commonly 6-24 months). The symptoms of the illness may vary widely, and some children may not act or appear sick at all.

Roseola usually begins with a rapidly rising high fever (103˚ F [39.5˚ C] or greater) that can last for three to seven days. During this time, children may appear comfortable and happy or irritable, have swollen glands in the neck, runny nose, cold-like symptoms, mild diarrhea or a bulging "soft spot" on the head (fontanel).

After three to seven days, the temperature returns to normal and a rash appears. The rash consists of rose-colored raised dots (papules) or as a flat (macular) rash. It is mainly on the neck, stomach and back but can also appear on the arms and legs. The rash does not itch and can last for hours to days.

Causes of Roseola

Roseola is caused by a virus (human herpes virus 6, or HHHV-6). Most children have usually been affected by this virus by the time they are 4 years of age. Infants and children are believed to catch the virus from close contact with a family member or caregiver who passes the virus but has no symptoms.

Older siblings usually don't catch roseola because they have had the illness at an earlier age.

Treatment of Roseola

  • Rest is only necessary if your child does not feel well.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Panadol, Tempra) may help bring the fever down if your child is uncomfortable. Do not give Aspirin to children or adolescents.

Call Your Child's Doctor If:

  • Your child won’t drink enough fluids, is not making tears or has not urinated in eight hours
  • Your child has a seizure, or unusual behavior
  • You have any other questions or concerns about your child

Last Updated 12/2021

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