Roseola

Definition

Roseola is an infection characterized by a sudden onset of high fever followed by a rash. The infection usually ends on its own without complications.

Roseola
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Causes

Roseola is usually caused by a specific herpes viruses. These viruses are not the same as the herpes viruses that cause cold sores or genital herpes.

Risk Factors

Roseola is more common in children aged 6 months to 3 years (6-15 months is most common), and during the spring and fall months. Contact with an infected child is rarely reported.

Symptoms

Roseola may cause:

  • Fever
    • 103°F to 105°F
    • Begins suddenly and is not associated with other symptoms
    • Lasts 3 days, sometimes a day or two longer
  • Convulsions may occur in association with high fever in up to 5% to 10% of children
  • A rash that develops 12-24 hours after the fever
    • Appears on the chest and abdomen first
    • Rose-colored
    • May spread to arms, legs, neck, and face
    • Lasts for a few hours to a few days and does not itch
  • Other symptoms or signs may include:
    • Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears
    • Irritability
    • Poor appetite
    • Upper respiratory tract infection symptoms that may occur before the fever

The appearance of a rash after the fever disappears is the characteristic sign of roseola.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Usually other tests are not needed. Often, there is a history of other children with roseola in the community.

Treatment

No treatment is needed for roseola unless the child has a weakened immune system. The most important treatment is to keep the fever down and drink plenty of fluids.

Talk to your doctor about how to bring the fever down through:

  • Medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Lukewarm sponge baths
  • Plenty of fluids
  • Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.

Call your doctor if your child has a seizure and/or the fever persists.

Prevention

To help prevent the spread of roseola, avoid contact with an infected child when possible. The incubation period is 5-15 days. The virus is thought to be spread by contact with infected saliva. Carefully and frequently wash your hands to help prevent the spread of roseola.

Revision Information

  • Family Doctor - American Academy of Family Physicians

    http://familydoctor.org

  • Healthy Children - American Academy of Pediatrics

    http://www.healthychildren.org

  • About Kids Health

    http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

  • Alberta Health

    http://www.health.alberta.ca

  • Roseola infantum. American Academy of Pediatricians Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/Pages/Roseola-Infantum.aspx. Updated May 11, 2013. Accessed August 5, 2013.

  • Roseola. Nemours' Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/skin/roseola.html. Updated July 2012. Accessed August 5, 2013.

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