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What Is Roseola?

Roseola is a common virus that infects children under age 2. Most of the time, it’s nothing to worry about, and kids get better on their own. It's also sometimes called “sixth disease.”

What Are the Symptoms?

A child may not have any symptoms for 5-15 days after getting the virus that causes roseola. When symptoms do appear, the first thing you’ll notice is a sudden, high fever (over 103 F) that lasts or can come and go for 3-7 days.

Other than the fever, your child might seem healthy. She may be restless or irritable. Once the fever goes away, she might also develop a raised, spotty, reddish rash, mainly on her neck and trunk. It doesn’t itch and may last just a few hours or a few days.

Your child might also have diarrhea, cough, and droopy or swollen eyelids.

What Causes Roseola?

It’s an infection brought on by human herpesvirus 6 or, occasionally, human herpesvirus 7. It remains in the child’s body but usually remains latent, or turned off.

It’s most common in infants and children between 6 and 24 months old.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A doctor usually knows your child has roseola because of the telltale symptoms: high fever followed by rash. Usually, no lab tests are needed.

Since it’s caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t help cure it. So, your child’s doctor will likely just treat her symptoms to make her more comfortable.

For high fever, he might recommend acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If your child develops other symptoms or becomes very sick, he may order blood or urine tests.

Roseola is contagious, so your doctor will tell you to keep your child away from others, at least until the fever goes away. Once it’s been gone for at least 24 hours, she can play with other kids, even if she still has a rash.

What Problems Can It Cause?

Sometimes, a very high fever may cause seizures. If this happens to your child, she might pass out for a short time. Her arms and legs may jerk for many seconds or minutes. She could also lose control of her bladder and bowels.

If your child has a seizure, call 911. Luckily, most seizures in young children don’t last long and aren’t harmful.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on March 08, 2019


SOURCES: “Roseola Infantum.”

Children’s National Health System: “Pediatric Viral Exanthems (Rashes).”

Mayo Clinic: “Roseola.”

Emerging Infectious Diseases: “Human Herpesvirus 6: An Emerging Pathogen.”

North Dakota Department of Health: “Roseola (Human Herpesvirus 6).”

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