What is roseola?

Roseola is a viral illness that mostly affects children between the ages of six months and two years. It is rare after age four.

The most distinctive features of roseola are the sudden appearance of a high fever and then the onset of a rash. The fever can run from 102 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and last from three to seven days.

When the fever breaks (goes away) a rash will appear on your child’s body. The rash may last a few hours to a few days and signals the end of the illness. Your child should fully recover from roseola.

What causes roseola?

The childhood illness is caused by the human herpes virus (HHV) type 6. Roseola is contagious (can be spread from one person to another). It spreads through tiny drops of fluid when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. Someone who has not yet developed symptoms often spreads the infection as the incubation period takes 14 days.

What are the symptoms of roseola?

In most cases, a child with roseola first develops a mild upper-respiratory illness, followed by the high fever. During this time your child’s symptoms may include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Mild cough
  • Weak appetite
  • Irritability or fussiness
  • Swollen glands (possibly)
  • Sudden fever, which often goes above 103º F and may last from 3 to 7 days

Children may be irritable or fussy during the fever phase of roseola. However many kids behave almost normally despite high temperatures.

As the high fever ends, a rash will appear on your child’s body. Some things to know about the roseola rash:

  • The rash starts on the child’s torso and may spread to the neck, face, arms, and legs.
  • It is made up of flat or raised pinkish red spots.
  • The spots turn white when touched.
  • Individual spots may have lighter areas or “halos” around them.