What is roseola?
Roseola infantum (or roseola) is an infection that can cause a high fever followed by a rash.
It usually occurs in babies and children between 6 months and 2 years. It lasts about 3 to 5 days and can make your child feel feverish and unwell.
What are the symptoms of roseola?
If your child has roseola you may notice symptoms like:
- a mild sore throat, runny nose or cough before the fever
- a sudden high fever (a temperature of more than 40oC), which can last up to 3 to 4 days before quickly disappearing
- a rash of pink, raised spots on their chest, tummy and back, which might spread to the arms and legs. The spots look white when you press them. The rash usually appears after your child's temperature goes back to normal and lasts for 2 days
- swollen glands in their neck
Sometimes children have febrile convulsions during a fever. This isn't usually serious, but you should see your doctor.
Your child could have roseola and not have any symptoms or may have a high temperature but no rash.
A roseola rash can sometimes be confused with other conditions. See your doctor immediately if your child seems confused, extremely drowsy, has a severe headache or a headache with a stiff neck, or the rash looks purple in places.
What causes roseola?
Roseola is caused by a virus and is contagious. It's spread by coughing, sneezing and direct contact.
A child can spread roseola before any symptoms appear. Once symptoms appear the child is not contagious.
How is roseola treated?
There's no treatment for roseola, but if your child has a high fever or a rash you may want to see a doctor.
You should also see a doctor if:
- your child has a convulsion
- your child is very sleepy or won't drink
- is not passing much urine
- is having trouble breathing
If a convulsion lasts longer than 5 minutes or your child won't wake up after a convulsion you should seek emergency help. Call triple zero (000) immediately.
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Can roseola be prevented?
There's no vaccine for roseola.
Good hygiene, including washing your hands regularly, can reduce the spread of the virus.
Read more about hygiene and hand washing.
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Last reviewed: May 2020