Symptoms of Roseola

  • Sudden onset of fever (possibly as high as 105˚F)
  • Irritability
  • Skin rash on the torso that usually spreads to the neck, face, arms, or legs
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Possible seizures

What Is Roseola?

Roseola is a common childhood viral infection. After a symptom-free incubation period of five to 12 days, a sudden high fever develops. The fever may persist for three to five days. During this time the child may become irritable and, in a few cases, experience febrile (fever-induced) seizures. On the fourth or fifth day of the illness, the fever subsides abruptly, and a rash appears on the torso.

The rash, consisting of small, red, flat areas, each about two millimeters in diameter, may quickly spread outward to the neck and face, as well as to the arms and legs. The rash often subsides after one or two days; in fact, in some cases it may only persist for a few hours. By the time the rash appears, the child typically feels better, has no fever, and is no longer contagious.

Roseola occurs exclusively in children, especially between the ages of six months and two years, and is more prevalent during the spring and fall than the other seasons. The disease is not a serious health risk, and no further complications arise after the infection subsides. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms while they last.

What Causes Roseola?

  • The human herpes virus 6 causes roseola.
  • Exposure to an infected child may spread the virus to other children.

Prevention of Roseola

  • Follow proper sanitary measures, such as washing hands after using the bathroom and before handling food, to help prevent the spread of infectious disease.
  • If possible, avoid exposing your child to another child with roseola.

Diagnosis of Roseola

  • There is no specific test for roseola. Diagnosis is based on patient history and physical examination.
  • Throat or blood cultures may be performed to rule out the possibility of other illnesses.

How to Treat Roseola

  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be given to reduce fever. Do not give aspirin, which may increase the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a rare but life-threatening inflammation of the brain and liver in children (see Reye’s syndrome for more information).
  • Anticonvulsant medications may be prescribed if seizures occur.
  • Follow prevention tips, such as hand washing, to halt the spread of infection.
  • Strenuous physical activity should be avoided during periods of high fever.

When to Call a Doctor

  • Call a doctor if a young child develops a high fever, with or without swollen glands. High fever can indicate a number of potentially serious disorders that may require professional treatment.
  • Emergency—See your doctor immediately or go to an emergency room if your child experiences seizures.


The Complete Home Wellness Handbook

John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., Sheldon Margen, M.D., and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 10 Aug 2010

Last Modified: 24 Feb 2015