Roseola (Child)

Roseola is a childhood viral infection that causes a high fever for 3 to 7 days. Other symptoms may include a decreased appetite, diarrhea, cough, runny nose, or irritability. When the fever is very high, a febrile seizure is possible, though rare. When the fever goes away, a light pink rash appears on the chest, abdomen, and back. This spreads to the face, arms and legs. The rash goes away after 1 to 2 days. By the time the rash appears, your child will likely be feeling better.

Roseola is not a serious illness. However, it is contagious to other children until the rash is gone. Children who are exposed to roseola may develop the fever in 5 to 15 days.

Home care

  • For infants younger than 1 year: Continue regular feedings (formula or breast).

  • For children older than  1 year: Give plenty of fluids like water, juice, gelatin, lemonade, or ice pops.

  • Your child may not want solid foods during the fever stage. This is OK as long as the child gets plenty of fluids.

  • Keep your child home from daycare or school until 24 hours after the fever is gone, even if the rash is not completely gone.

  • Ask your child's healthcare provider before giving your baby any over-the-counter medicines.

Follow-up care

Follow up with the healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to get medical advice

Unless your child's healthcare provider advises otherwise, call the provider right away if:

  • Your child has a fever (see "Fever and children" below)

  • The rash lasts more than 3 days

  • The rash becomes dark purple

  • Vomiting, diarrhea, cough, ear pain, or other new symptoms appear

Fever and children

Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds and uses of digital thermometers. They include:

  • Rectal. For children younger than 3 years, a rectal temperature is the most accurate.

  • Forehead (temporal). This works for children age 3 months and older. If a child under 3 months old has signs of illness, this can be used for a first pass. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Ear (tympanic). Ear temperatures are accurate after 6 months of age, but not before.

  • Armpit (axillary). This is the least reliable but may be used for a first pass to check a child of any age with signs of illness. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Mouth (oral). Don’t use a thermometer in your child’s mouth until he or she is at least 4 years old.

Use the rectal thermometer with care. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. Insert it gently. Label it and make sure it’s not used in the mouth. It may pass on germs from the stool. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, ask the healthcare provider what type to use instead. When you talk with any healthcare provider about your child’s fever, tell him or her which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your young child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare provider may give you different numbers for your child. Follow your provider’s specific instructions.

Fever readings for a baby under 3 months old:

  • First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

Fever readings for a child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):

  • Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher

Call the healthcare provider in these cases:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher in a child of any age

  • Fever of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher in baby younger than 3 months

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2

  • Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older

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