What is roseola?

Roseola in children: Overview

Roseola is a mild illness caused by a virus. It is generally harmless and is most common in children 6 months to 2 years of age. It is rare after age 4.

Roseola often starts with a sudden high fever that lasts 2 to 3 days, although it can last up to 8 days. The fever ends suddenly, and then a rosy pink rash may appear over your child's whole body. It often starts on the chest and spreads to the face, neck, and arms. The rash is not itchy, and it may last 1 to 2 days. A child with roseola may be fussy and may not want to eat anything, but most children act almost normally.

Roseola

Roseola (roseola infantum) is a mild viral illness that affects young children. When a child has roseola, he or she has a sudden high fever followed by a rosy-pink rash appearing mostly on the torso, neck, and arms.

Fever seizures may occur with this illness because of the rapid increase in a child's temperature. The fever tends to last 2 to 3 days. As a child's temperature gradually drops, the rash usually forms and lasts 1 to 2 days.

Roseola is contagious and is most common in children 6 months to 2 years of age. It is rare after age 4.

What are the symptoms of roseola?

Roseola starts with a high fever that lasts 2 to 3 days or longer. Then a rosy-pink, non-itchy rash may appear, mostly on the trunk, neck, and arms. The child may be fussy or irritable. Sudden high fevers can sometimes cause a fever seizure, but roseola is most often a harmless infection.

How is roseola treated?

Roseola fever can be treated with acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin). Follow the instructions on the medicine label and your doctor's advice. Never give aspirin to anyone under 20 years old because of the risk of Reye syndrome. The rash will go away without treatment.

How is roseola diagnosed?

Roseola is diagnosed through a medical history and physical exam. The doctor often knows it's roseola if your child had a fever and now has a distinct rash.

How can you care for your child who has roseola?

  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever, pain, or fussiness. Do not use ibuprofen if your child is less than 6 months old unless the doctor gave you instructions to use it. Be safe with medicines. For children 6 months and older, read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • If your child is under age 2 or weighs less than 24 pounds, follow your doctor's advice about the amount of medicine to give your child.
  • Do not put medicine on your child's rash. It will go away on its own.

What is roseola?

Roseola (roseola infantum) is a mild illness caused by a virus. It is generally harmless and is most common in children 6 months to 2 years of age. It is rare after age 4.

What causes roseola?

Roseola is caused by two common viruses. The viruses belong to the family of herpes viruses, but they do not cause the cold sores or genital infections that herpes simplex viruses can cause. They are spread through tiny droplets of fluid from the nose and throat of infected people when they laugh, talk, sneeze, or cough. Roseola mostly spreads from infected people who don't show symptoms.

If your child has roseola, keep him or her at home until there has been no fever for 24 hours and he or she is feeling better.

Roseola in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has a seizure.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child's rash gets worse.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the rash.
    • Pus draining from the rash.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child's rash lasts longer than 4 weeks or is not clearing up as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.