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What New Parents Need To Know About Roseola

Parents of young children should know what roseola is. While roseola does not have lasting effects, it can make parents worry. Also known as sixth disease, roseola affects young children and is very common.

Chinwe Egbo, MD, a Banner Health pediatric hospitalist, explains roseola is a very contagious viral illness that is transmitted in saliva through respiratory droplets. She adds that it is caused by a human herpes virus, HHV-6. 

Dr. Egbo says roseola typically occurs in children between 3 months and 3 years of age, but 90% of the cases happen in children under 2 years old. She also notes it is more common in girls.

Roseola symptoms and treatments

Roseola begins with a very high fever of 104 degrees that lasts 3 to 5 days. After the fever breaks, the child will break out in a fine, non-itchy rash. Dr. Egbo says infected children are usually still playful, but they may have diarrhea, cough, swollen lymph nodes, spots in the throat and pink eye.

As is possible with fevers over 100 degrees, some children may experience a febrile seizure—spasms or convulsions brought about by a high fever. Typically, children under the age of 6 can have a febrile seizure, and Dr. Egbo notes usually between 10 and 45% of infants will have one with roseola.

Dr. Egbo notes there is no specific treatment for roseola beyond making sure the child stays hydrated and keeping the fever under control using a child-safe fever reducer. The virus typically runs its course in 4 to 7 days.

“It is a self-limiting disease, meaning it will resolve on its own,” Dr. Egbo said. “However, for children who are immunosuppressed, the virus can reactivate, and a severe case can cause meningoencephalitis, myocarditis, pneumonitis, hepatitis and bone marrow failure.”

In the rare, severe, life-threatening cases with organ failure, the doctor may choose to try antivirals to treat it.

How to stop the spread

So, what can be done to avoid getting roseola?

“Handwashing is very important to prevent the spread of the disease,” Dr. Egbo said.

If you think your child has roseola, you can make an appointment with your pediatrician just for the peace of mind. And, don’t forget: Banner Urgent Care offers walk-in appointments and is available in many locations.

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