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DERMATOLOGY :: Viral Exanthems (Rashes)

Roseola

What is roseola?

Roseola is a viral illness that results in a viral exanthem. Exanthem is another name for a rash or skin eruption. Roseola is a contagious disease marked by a high fever and a rash that develops as the fever decreases.

What causes roseola?

Roseola is probably caused by more than one virus. The most common cause appears to be human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6). It occurs mostly in children under the age of 3. It occurs throughout the year.

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. The following are the most common symptoms of roseola. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • high fever that starts abruptly
  • fever (may last three to four days)
  • irritability
  • swelling of the eyelids
  • 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.)

The most serious complication of roseola is febrile seizures. As the child's temperature becomes high, there is a chance that the child will have a seizure.

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

How is roseola diagnosed?

Roseola is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination of your child. The rash of roseola that follows a high fever is unique, and suggests the diagnosis simply on physical examination.

Treatment for roseola:

Aspirin and the Risk of Reye Syndrome in Children

Do not give aspirin to a child without first contacting the child's physician. Aspirin, when given as treatment for children, has been associated with Reye syndrome, a potentially serious or deadly disorder in children. Therefore, pediatricians and other healthcare providers recommend that aspirin (or any medication that contains aspirin) not be used to treat any viral illnesses in children.

Specific treatment for roseola will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment for roseola is to help decrease the severity of the symptoms. Since it is a viral infection, there is no cure for roseola. Treatment may include:

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

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It is important to remember the health information found on this website is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.
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