Roseola

What is roseola?

Roseola is a viral illness that results in a viral exanthem. Exanthem is another name for a rash or skin eruption. Roseola is a contagious disease that usually consists of a high fever and a rash that develops as the fever decreases.

What causes roseola?

Roseola is caused by many viruses. The most common cause is the human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6). It occurs mostly in children under the age of 3. Roseola is contagious, although the way it is spread is not known. It occurs throughout the year.

What are the symptoms of roseola?

It may take between five to 15 days for a child to develop symptoms of roseola after being exposed to the disease. A child is probably most contagious during the period of high fever, before the rash occurs. The following are the most common symptoms of roseola. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • high fever that starts abruptly
  • fever (may last three to seven days)
  • irritability
  • swelling of the eyes
  • rash (As the fever decreases, a pink rash, with either flat or raised lesions, starts to appear on the trunk and then spreads to the face, arms, and legs.)
The most serious complication that can occur with roseola is febrile seizures. This means that as the child's temperature becomes high, there is a chance of the child having a seizure that is directly related to the fever.

The symptoms of roseola may resemble other skin conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is roseola diagnosed?

Roseola is usually diagnosed based on a complete medical history and physical examination of your child. The rash of roseola that follows a high fever is unique, and usually allows for a diagnosis simply on physical examination. In addition, your child's physician may order blood tests to aid in the diagnosis.

Treatment for roseola:

Specific treatment for roseola will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference
The goal of treatment for roseola is to help decrease the severity of the symptoms. Since it is a viral infection, there is no cure for roseola. Treatment may include:
  • increased fluid intake
  • acetaminophen for fever (DO NOT GIVE ASPIRIN)

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