Roseola (Child)

Roseola is a childhood viral infection that causes a high fever for 3 to 7 days. Other symptoms are not always present, but might 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 popsicles.

  • 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 seek 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

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Infant under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.

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