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Roseola

  • Overview

    Roseola is a viral illness that results in a rash or skin eruption. It usually consists of a high fever and a rash that develops as the fever decreases.

    • Roseola is contagious, although the way it is spread is still unknown.
    • It may take between five to 15 days for a child to develop symptoms of roseola after being exposed to the disease.
    • It occurs mostly in children under the age of 3 and occurs mostly in the spring and fall.
    • The most serious complication that can occur with roseola is febrile seizures. This means that as the child's temperature increases, there is a chance of the child having a seizure that is directly related to the fever.
    • Since roseola is a viral infection, there is no treatment known to interrupt its course. The goal of treatment is to help decrease the severity of the symptoms.
    • Do not give aspirin to children who are running a fever as it is associated with the risk of developing Reye's syndrome, a serious and sometimes deadly disease.

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    Children's Hospital Boston
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115

     617-355-7701
     fax: 617-730-0505


  • In-Depth

    What is roseola?

    Roseola is a viral illness that results in a viral exanthema, which is another name for a rash or skin eruption. Roseola is a contagious disease that usually consists of a high fever and a rash that develops as the fever decreases.

    What causes roseola?

    Roseola is caused by many viruses. The most common cause is the human herpes virus-6 virus. It occurs mostly in children under the age of 3.

    Roseola is contagious, although the way it is spread is unknown. It occurs mostly in the spring and fall.

    What are the symptoms of roseola?

    It may take between five to 15 days for a child to develop symptoms of roseola after being exposed to the disease. A child is probably most contagious during the period of high fever, before the rash occurs, making it more likely to spread among children.

    Each child may experience symptoms differently, but, in general, the most common signs include:

    • high fever that starts abruptly and may last three to four days
    • irritability
    • swelling of the eyes
    • rash

    As the fever decreases, a pink rash, with either flat or raised lesions, starts to appear on the trunk and then spreads to the face, arms and legs.

    Are there any complications?

    The most serious complication that can occur with roseola is febrile seizures. This means that as the child's temperature increases, there is a chance of the child having a seizure that is directly related to the fever.

    The symptoms of roseola may resemble other skin conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

  • Tests

    How is roseola diagnosed?

    Roseola is usually diagnosed based on a complete medical history and physical examination of your child. Because the rash of roseola that follows a high fever is unique, your child's physician can typically make a diagnosis based on a simple physical examination. Your child's doctor may also order blood tests to aid in the diagnosis.

  • Since roseola is a viral infection, there is no cure. The goal of treatment is to help decrease the severity of the symptoms as the virus runs its course.

    Treatment may include:

    • increased fluid intake
    • acetaminophen for fever (DO NOT GIVE ASPIRIN)

    Aspirin and the risk of Reye syndrome in children

    Do not give aspirin to a child who has fever without first contacting the child's physician. Aspirin, when given as treatment for viral fevers in children, has been associated with Reye's syndrome, a potentially serious or deadly disorder in children. For this reason, pediatricians and other healthcare providers recommend that aspirin not be used to treat any fevers in children.

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