Roseola is a generally mild infection that usually affects children by age 2. It occasionally affects adults. Roseola is so common that most children have been infected with roseola by the time they enter kindergarten.

Two common strains of herpes virus cause roseola. The condition typically causes several days of fever, followed by a rash.

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

Roseola typically isn't serious. Rarely, a very high fever can result in complications. Treatment of roseola includes bed rest, fluids and medications to reduce fever.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

If your child is exposed to someone with roseola and becomes infected with the virus, it generally takes a week or two for signs and symptoms of infection to appear — if they appear at all. It's possible to become infected with roseola, but have signs and symptoms too mild to be readily noticeable. Roseola symptoms may include:

  • Fever. Roseola typically starts with a sudden, high fever — often greater than 103 F (39.4 C). Some children may also have a slightly sore throat, runny nose or cough along with or preceding the fever. Your child may also develop swollen lymph nodes in his or her neck along with the fever. The fever lasts three to five days.
  • Rash. Once the fever subsides, a rash typically appears — but not always. The rash consists of many small pink spots or patches. These spots are generally flat, but some may be raised. There may be a white ring around some of the spots. 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 fading.

Other signs and symptoms of roseola may include:

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

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate medical care

Your child could have a convulsion (febrile seizure) if his or her fever becomes high or spikes quickly. However, usually by the time you notice your child's high temperature, the threat of a possible seizure has already passed. If your child does have an unexplained seizure, seek medical care immediately.

Call your child's doctor

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child has a fever greater than 103 F (39.4 C)
  • Your child has roseola and the fever lasts more than seven days
  • The rash doesn't improve after three days

Call your doctor

If your immune system is compromised and you come in contact with someone who has roseola, contact your doctor. You may need monitoring for a possible infection that, for you, could be more severe than it is for a child.

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