About roseola infantum

Roseola infantum is caused by a type of herpes virus called human herpesvirus 6. This virus spreads among children through coughing, sneezing and direct contact.

The herpes virus that causes roseola is different from the herpes virus that causes cold sores, shingles and chickenpox.

Roseola is very common. Nearly all children have had roseola by two years of age.

Symptoms of roseola infantum

Roseola might start with a runny nose, cough and sore throat.

After this, children might get a sudden fever. The fever can be higher than 40°C and last 3-4 days. Children might also have swollen glands in the neck.

When children with roseola have a high temperature, they might have a seizure called a febrile convulsion. Although this can be frightening, it’s not usually serious.

After the fever disappears, a rash might develop. The rash consists of pink, slightly raised spots on the chest, tummy and back. The rash rarely lasts more than 24 hours. Some children have no rash at all.

Most children with roseola recover fully within a week.

Roseola is most infectious before the rash appears and when fever is at its highest.

Should you see a doctor about roseola infantum?

You can manage roseola at home.

But you should go to your GP or a hospital emergency department if your child:

  • can’t or won’t drink fluids
  • complains of severe headache
  • complains of severe muscle pain
  • has a rash that looks purple in places
  • is sleepy, weak or confused or has a febrile convulsion
  • has trouble breathing
  • you’re worried about your child.

If your child stops breathing following a febrile convulsion, call an ambulance on 000 immediately and start CPR for babies or CPR for children over one year. Also phone 000 and ask for an ambulance if the febrile convulsion lasts longer than five minutes.

Treatment for roseola infantum

There’s no medication to treat roseola. The illness usually improves on its own, but there are some things you can do to ease your child’s symptoms:

  • Give your child paracetamol in recommended doses to lower fever and reduce discomfort.
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of water and get lots of rest.

Children with roseola should avoid contact with other young children and people who have weakened immune systems.

Prevention of roseola infantum

Good handwashing is the best way to stop common childhood illnesses from spreading. It’s also important to cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow rather than into your hands, and to teach your child to do this too.

There’s no immunisation to protect children from roseola because it isn’t a serious illness.