What Is Roseola And What Are The Symptoms?

Roseola is a common and generally mild viral illness that can affect babies and toddlers. It is also called the sixth disease or roseola infantum. Usually, it’s not something you need to worry too much about. Roseola typically causes a few days of fever, which is sometimes followed by a rash, but in mild cases, you may not notice any symptoms at all.

Read on to find out more about what roseola is, to learn the signs and symptoms, and for some tips that will help you assess when it may be a good idea to contact your baby's healthcare provider.

What Is Roseola?

Roseola is a viral infection caused by two common strains of the human herpes virus. It belongs to the herpes family, but it has no relation with a sexually transmitted disease. Older infants between 6 and 15 months are at the greatest risk of contracting roseola because they have not yet built up antibodies that help fight viruses, but it can commonly affect children up to age 2. (Newborns still retain antibodies they received in the uterus from their mother.) This means by the time your little one enters kindergarten, he is likely to get this condition. One bout of roseola in childhood may provide some immunity; repeat cases may occur but are uncommon. It's good to know that if your child comes down with roseola, it's likely that he'll be back to normal within a week or so.

To get a closer look at your baby’s physical growth through the months, refer to our Baby Growth Chart

Signs and Symptoms of Roseola

If your child has been infected with this mild virus, it can take about one to two weeks for visible signs to appear. Here are some of the common symptoms that could appear:


A sudden, high fever which is often higher than 39.4°C (103°F). Roseola fever usually lasts about three to five days. You can check out some useful tips to deal with fever in babies.

  • Rash

A rash may appear after the fever subsides. You might be wondering what the roseola rash looks like? Well, the rash looks like many small, flat, pink spots or patches. Sometimes the spots may be raised. You may notice a white ring around some of the spots. The rash may start on your child's chest, back, and abdomen, and it can then spread to the neck and arms. Sometimes it may spread to the legs or face. Though it may look a little scary, the rash isn't itchy or uncomfortable. How long does a roseola rash last? Well, it can last several hours or even up to a few days. No additional roseola rash treatment is generally recommended, as it will clear up on its own.

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

  • Mildly sore throat

  • Runny nose

  • Cough

  • Irritability

  • Mild diarrhoea

  • Ear pain

  • Loss of appetite

  • Swollen eyelids

However, there’s a possibility of your child showing no symptoms of roseola at all. In such cases, you must consult with your healthcare provider to get the correct diagnosis. There are even cases where it becomes difficult to diagnose the condition because the symptoms mimic those of other common illnesses found in children. Sometimes, the fever arrives and resolves just before the rash appears. In such cases, roseola is usually diagnosed only after the fever leaves the body. By that time your little one starts feeling better.

When to Consult Your Child's Doctor and Treatment Options?

Roseola can disappear on its own, but consult your baby's doctor if your child:

  • Has a fever of 39.4°C (103°F) or higher for 24 hours

  • Has a fever that lasts more than seven days

  • Has a rash that persists beyond three days

  • Feels lethargic Won't drink water, formula, or breastfeed Has a convulsion (febrile seizure) as a result of a spiking fever (remember, this is rare, but if this occurs, contact a doctor right away)

  • Has a weaker immune system, placing him at greater risk of complications relating to the fever.

Keep in mind that there’s no specific treatment for roseola. As it’s a virus, you can’t treat it with antibiotics. It’s because antibiotics work to treat conditions caused due to bacteria. In most cases, roseola will resolve within a week, but in the meantime, keep your child comfortable with home treatments. Make sure he gets lots of rest and plenty of fluids. Roseola treatments that the doctor may recommend include an over-the-counter drug, such as acetaminophen, to help reduce the fever or antiviral medication.

Is Roseola Contagious?

Roseola is contagious even if no rash is present. It can spread through saliva (for example, sharing a cup with someone who is infected) or through respiratory droplets (via coughs in babies or sneezes). If you're wondering: When is roseola contagious? It might be helpful to know that the contagious period is most likely during the fever stage.

To try to help prevent your child from getting roseola, keep him away from people you know are infected. If your child has come in contact with someone you know has it, keep an eye on the signs of the virus. Keep in mind that your child may have been exposed without you knowing. Remember, although it's never pleasant to be sick, roseola is something many children will catch easily.

Can Roseola Affect Adults?

Talking about adults, they can also get infected by roseola. In healthy adults, it tends to be mild, but there’s a chance of them passing it on to the children. That's why if anyone in your home has it, make sure all family members wash their hands regularly to help prevent it from spreading. Fortunately, if you already have had the condition in your younger years, you will be on the safer side. This again implies only in certain cases.


Roseola is a common childhood sickness that can be cured with the right treatment. Generally, it’s not a cause for concern. So, don’t worry. Let your baby rest up and take it easy. In no time, he will recover from roseola and back being the picture of health. As a parent, all you should do is shower him with lots of love and kisses, leading him to a speedy recovery!

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