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Roseola

Pediatric Basics

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Updated March 19, 2014

Roseola is a common viral infection of early childhood, mostly infecting children between the ages of 6 and 24 months.

Symptoms

Children with roseola usually just have a high fever. About three to seven days later, once the fever breaks, kids with roseola get a red or pink raised rash all over their body. This rash usually lasts a few hours to a few days, begins on the trunk and then can spread to the child's arms, legs and face. Unlike many other rashes that kids get, the rash of roseola is not itchy.

Some children infected with the virus that causes roseola do have other typical viral symptoms, such as a runny nose, cough, swollen glands, irritibility, and diarrhea. Other symptoms might include febrile seizures or a bulging fontanel (soft spot).

Even more common is to become infected with the roseola virus and not have any symptoms at all. The AMA reports that 'in about two thirds of these children the infection is asymptomatic.'

Diagnosis

When a child just has a fever, diagnosis is difficult. It is not until the rash begins and the fever has stopped that you can make the diagnosis, and by then, the child is already better.

Although it is easy to suspect roseola when a younger child has a fever, keep in mind that other infections can also cause just a fever. To rule out these more serious infections, including blood and urinary tract infections, a blood and urine culture may need to be done, even if your Pediatrician suspects roseola.

No specific testing is usually required, but a complete blood count might show a low white blood count (leukopenia).

Treatments

There is no specific treatment for roseola and most kids recover without problems. Fever reducers, such as acetaminopen or ibuprofen, are helpful while your child has a fever.

What You Need To Know

  • You should usually call your Pediatrician when your younger child has a fever, especially when they have no other symptoms.
  • Roseola is also called exanthem subitum (sixth disease) and it is caused by the HHV-6 virus (human herpesvirus 6 ). It is also thought that the HHV-7 virus might also be able to cause roseola.
  • Unlike many other childhood infections, there is no seasonal pattern to getting roseola, so children may become infected year round. And it is not necessarily contagious, although some people believe that children transmit the virus through respiratory sectretions and saliva while they have a fever. Others think that most kids become infected from people (usually family members) who have no symptoms. Either way, outbreaks are uncommon.
  • Although your child won't be able to attend daycare while he has a fever, according to the CDC, 'a child with rash and no fever may return to child care.'
  • Children under 6 months are usually protected from getting roseola though maternal antibodies and children older than 2-3 years are usually immune. The biggest danger is to people with immune system disorders.

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