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Roseola

Exanthem subitum; Sixth disease

Roseola is a viral infection that commonly affects infants and young children. It involves a pinkish-red skin rash and high fever.

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Roseola
Temperature measurement

Causes

Roseola is common in children ages 3 months to 4 years, and most common in those ages 6 months to 1 year.

It is caused by a virus called human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), although similar syndromes are possible with other viruses.

Symptoms

The time between becoming infected and the beginning of symptoms (incubation period) is 5 to 15 days.

The first symptoms include:

About 2 to 4 days after becoming sick, the child's fever lowers and a rash appears. This rash most often:

The rash lasts from a few hours to 2 to 3 days. It usually does not itch.

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about the child's medical history. The child may have swollen lymph nodes in the neck or back of the scalp.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for roseola. The disease most often gets better on its own without complications.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and cool sponge baths can help reduce the fever. Some children may have seizures when they get a high fever. If this occurs, call your provider or go to the closest emergency room.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if your child:

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if your child has convulsions.

Prevention

Careful handwashing can help prevent the spread of the viruses that cause roseola.

Related Information

Rashes
Febrile seizures

References

Cherry J. Roseola infantum (exanthem subitum). In: Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 59.

Tesini BL, Caserta MT. Roseola (human herpesviruses 6 and 7). In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 283.

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Review Date: 8/7/2019  

Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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