By JustMommies staff

Roseola is a common viral childhood illness that usually occurs in children ages 6 months to 3 years old. Roseola is contagious and usually runs its course within 5 days to 2 weeks.

Signs and symptoms of roseola

Roseola is marked by a high fever, 103°F or above. The child may also have cold or flu like symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, or swollen glands. The fever usually comes on suddenly and lasts about 3-4 days. The fever is usually followed by a rash. The rash will be pink in color and the spots may be flat or raised. They may have a white edge or halo around them. The rash usually begins on the child's trunk and may spread to the face, neck, and arms. It does not itch and should resolve within a few hours to a few days. Although a rash usually occurs after the fever, it is not always present in roseola. Other symptoms that may occur include fatigue, malaise, diarrhea (usually mild), decreased appetite, and increased irritability.

Causes of roseola

Roseola is caused by a strain of herpes virus, related to oral and genital herpes, but a different type. It is spread through airborne secretions much the same way the common cold is transmitted. The virus may be spread before the rash appears and often before any symptoms of roseola occur.

Prevention of roseola

Teaching your child to wash his/her hands or washing your child's hands for him is the number one way to prevent roseola. You should teach your child to cover his mouth when he cough if he or she is old enough. Keep your child home from day care or other social activities if he has a fever or appears ill. Even with frequent hand washing, it may be difficult to prevent roseola.

Treatment of roseola

The primary goal for treating roseola is managing the symptoms. Roseola is a viral infection, therefore, antibiotics are ineffective and there is no specific medication available to treat it. Your doctor may recommend using over the counter medications such as Tylenol or Motrin to help control the fever. Consult your doctor for dosage and any medication instructions. Aspirin should not be given as it has been associated with Reye Syndrome.

You should encourage fluid and rest. Occasionally the fever will lead to a seizure. This can be scary for the parent, but rarely causes any complications.

In general, roseola is a mild viral illness that occurs in most children before they reach the age of five. It usually runs its course within a week or two. It is contagious so children should be kept home until the illness has passed.