What is roseola?
Roseola is a virus common among very young children, especially between the ages of 6 months to 1 year of age. Before the age of 6 months, infants are protected by their mother's immunity from a strain of the human herpes virus (type 6 or HHV-6) that causes roseola. It is also referred to as sixth disease because it is 1 of 6 conditions involving skin rashes that were categorized in the 1800s.
What are the symptoms of roseola?
A child who catches roseola will first show cold- or allergy-like symptoms, including runny nose, sore throat, and swollen red eyes. Children may also be irritable or have decreased appetite or swollen lymph glands in the neck.
A fast-rising fever appears and lasts for 3 to 7 days, spiking up to 40.5°C (105°F). During the feverish days, watch for signs of febrile seizure (convulsions, unconsciousness, or loss of bladder or bowel control) that occur in about 10% to 15% of children. In the case of seizure, go directly to your child's doctor or to the emergency room. As the fever drops, your child will develop a rash, starting on the trunk and spreading to the limbs, neck, and face. The rash features tiny rosy-pink sores that may be slightly raised and blanch when touched.
How is roseola spread?
A child can catch roseola via airborne droplets or through contact with fecal matter. And roseola can be quite contagious, since it spreads before any symptoms appear that would tip a parent off that their child is carrying the virus. In fact, the time from infection to appearance of symptoms can be anywhere from 5 to 15 days on average. The virus is more common in the spring or fall.
Can roseola be prevented?
Roseola cannot be completely prevented, since it can spread when a child shows no symptoms. Diligent hand-washing hygiene can reduce risk.
How is roseola treated?
Except in the case of febrile seizure, roseola usually requires no specific treatment. Antibiotics will not be effective since roseola is viral rather than bacterial. You can ease a child's fever symptoms with cool sponge baths, proper hydration, or by administering acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen. A child with a virus should not be given acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin®), due to its association with Reye’s syndrome, which is a rare but potentially fatal condition.
Should I take my child to the doctor for roseola?
In most cases, you will not need to take your child to the doctor. Roseola usually resolves on its own. However, do consult your child's doctor if fever persists despite over-the-counter medication and other home treatments or if your child continues to appear sick or acts lethargic. And as mentioned above, a febrile seizure is an emergency that requires prompt medical attention.