(Exanthem Subitum; Roseola Infantum)
Roseola is an infection characterized by a sudden onset of high fever followed by a rash. The infection usually ends on its own without complications.
Roseola is more common in children aged 6 months to 3 years old (6-15 months old is most common), and during the spring and fall months. Contact with an infected child is rarely reported.
Roseola may cause:
- 103°F to 105°F
- Begins suddenly and is not associated with other symptoms
- Lasts 3 days, sometimes 1-2 days longer
- Convulsions may occur in association with high fever in up to 5% to 10% of children
A rash that develops 12-24 hours after the fever
- Appears on the chest and abdomen first
- May spread to arms, legs, neck, and face
- Lasts for a few hours to a few days and does not itch
Other symptoms or signs may include:
- Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears
- Poor appetite
- Upper respiratory tract infection symptoms that may occur before the fever
The appearance of a rash after the fever disappears is the characteristic sign of roseola.
The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Usually other tests are not needed. Often, there is a history of other children with roseola in the community.
No treatment is needed for roseola unless the child has a weakened immune system. The most important treatment is to keep the fever down and drink plenty of fluids.
Talk to the doctor about how to bring the fever down through:
- Medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Lukewarm sponge baths
- Plenty of fluids
- Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Call your doctor if your child has a seizure and/or the fever persists.
To help prevent the spread of roseola, avoid contact with an infected child when possible. The incubation period is 5-15 days. The virus is thought to be spread by contact with infected saliva. Carefully and frequently wash your hands to help prevent the spread of roseola.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Roseola infantum. American Academy of Pediatricians Healthy Children website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/Pages/Roseola-Infantum.aspx. Updated May 11, 2013. Accessed August 5, 2013.
Roseola. Nemour Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/roseola.html. Updated July 2012. Accessed August 5, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2016 by David L. Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.