Roseola is a viral infection common in the late spring and summer months that typically causes a high fever for 3 days (and nothing else) and then an outbreak of a red, raised, blanching (when you touch it) rash. It's really easy to diagnose when the rash shows up, but harder to do when it's just the fever.
Roseola is caused by Human Herpesvirus 6 (HHV- 6). HHV- 6 causes a bunch of other clinical syndromes, including fevers without rash, swollen glands and sometimes ear infections. HHV- 6 also causes febrile seizures in about 10- 20 % of infected kids. But mostly, HHV- 6 causes high fevers and a rash. (And it's not that herpes that causes the genital stuff.)
Kids get it when the antibodies that crossed the placenta from mom are all gone... so about 6 months of age is when it's the disease is most common, unless you are nursing. Then the antibodies that pass through the breastmilk will keep the child protected. It's uncommon to get the disease past 3 years of age.
It's passed through respiratory secretions from people who are usually asymptomatic.. The incubation period is about 10 days before symptoms show up. We diagnose roseola by the clinical picture- about 3 days of high fever and really nothing else and then the fever breaks and the rash shows up.
The fevers are scary. They can be higher than 103+ for days at a time, and sometimes up to a week. And for those of you who worry about the number of the fever, this illness will make you very nervous. BUT, this is a perfect example of a very common, mostly harmless childhood illness that has really high fevers-- and the fevers don't bake the child's brain. It's not the height of the fever, but how the kids are acting that counts. So, let's worry about how the kids look. And most of the time, they are tired, without a whole lot of energy, but are otherwise OK.
Treat the fever, and keep 'em comfortable. When the rash shows up, the disease has basically run it's course.
tylenol dosing, ibuprofen dosing, fever info, and fifth disease (another rash that looks like roseola)
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