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Disease: Roseola Roseola
Category: Dermatological diseases
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Disease Definition:

The mild infection that affects children by the age of 2 is called roseola. Adults are only occasionally affected by this infection. By the time they enter kindergarten, most children have been infected with roseola, meaning that this infection is a common one.

Roseola is caused by two common strains of the herpes virus. Several days of fever, followed by a rash are usually caused by this condition.

While some children develop only a very mild case of roseola and never show any clear indication of illness, others experience the full range of symptoms.

Complications from a very high fever can result in some rare cases, but roseola typically isn't serious. Medications to reduce fever, fluids and bed rest are included in the treatment of roseola.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


If signs and symptoms of infection appear at all, it will take them about a week or two to appear, in a child who is exposed to someone with roseola and becomes infected with the virus. It is possible for a person to become infected with roseola and have very mild signs and symptoms to be noticed. The symptoms of roseola may include:

  • Rash: A rash typically (but not always) appears once the fever subsides. The rash consists of many small pink spots or patches. Some spots may be raised, but they are uasully flat. Around some of the spots, there may be a white ring. The rash usually starts on the chest, back and abdomen and then spreads to the neck and arms. It may or may not reach the legs and face. The rash, which isn't itchy or uncomfortable, can last from several hours to several days before finally fading.
  • Fever: Roseola typically starts with a sudden, high fever, often greater than 39.4 C (103 F). Some children may also have a slightly sore throat, cough or runny nose preceding or along with the fever. Along with the fever, the child may also develop swollen glands in the neck. The fever usually lasts for three to seven days.

Other signs and symptoms of roseola may include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Irritability in infants and children


The human herpes virus 6 (HHV6) is the most common cause of roseola, however, another herpes virus, such as the human herpes virus 7 (HHV7) can also cause roseola. These herpes viruses are related to, but different from those that cause cold sores and genital herpes.

Roseola spreads from one person to another through contact with an infected person's respiratory secretions or saliva, just like other viral illnesses, such as a common cold. For instance, a healthy child could contract the virus if he/she shares a cup with a child who has roseola.

Even if no rash is present, roseola is contagious. So this means that even before it's clear that the child has roseola, the condition can spread while an infected child has only a fever. If the child has interacted with another child who has the roseola, parents should watch for signs of the illness.

Roseola rarely results in a communitywide outbreak, unlike chickenpox and other childhood viral illnesses that spread rapidly. The infection can occur at any time of the year.

Because older infants haven't had time yet to develop their own antibodies against many viruses, they are at greatest risk of acquiring roseola. Babies receive antibodies from their mothers that protect them as newborns from contracting infections, such as roseola, while they are in the uterus. However, with time, this immunity fades. Between 9 and 21 months is the most common age for a child to contract roseola.



Rapid rise in body temperature sometimes causes a seizure in a child with roseola. In this case, the child might briefly lose consciousness and jerk his/her head, legs or arms for several seconds to minutes. The child may also temporarily lose bladder or bowel control.
Parents should seek emergency care if their child has a seizure. Fever-related seizures in otherwise healthy young children are generally short-lived and are rarely harmful, despite the fact that they're frightening.
The vast majority of otherwise healthy children and adults with roseola recover quickly and completely. Complications from roseola are rare.

In people whose immune system is compromised like those who have recently received a bone marrow or organ transplant, roseola is of greater concern. While their immune system is weakened, they may contract a new case of roseola, or a previous infection may come back. Immune-compromised people tend to develop more severe cases of infection and have a harder time fighting off illness because they have less resistance to viruses in general.
Potentially serious complications from the infection, such as pneumonia or encephalitis (a potentially life-threatening inflammation of the brain) may be experienced by people with weak immune systems who contract roseola.


Within a week of the beginning of the fever, most children recover fully from roseola. To reduce fever, parents can give their child over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, with the doctor's advice. But because acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) has been associated with the development of Reye's syndrome, which can be serious, it shouldn't be given to a child who has a viral illness.

Some doctors may prescribe the antiviral medication ganciclovir to treat the infection in people with weakened immunity, but there's no specific treatment for roseola. Roseola can’t be treated with an antibiotic because it is a viral illness.


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