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What Are the Symptoms of Roseola?

In most cases, a child with roseola develops a mild upper-respiratory illness, followed by a high fever (often higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit) for three to seven days. The child may be fussy or irritable during this time, may have a weak appetite, and may have swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck.

In many cases, the high fever abruptly stops and a rash appears on the child's body at about the same time. The rash is made up of flat or raised pinkish-red spots and appears on the torso. The spots turn white when touched. Individual spots may have lighter areas or "halos" around them. Usually, the rash spreads to the face, legs, arms, and neck.

How Is Roseola Diagnosed?

To diagnose roseola, a doctor will take a history and do a thorough physical exam. A diagnosis of roseola is often uncertain until the fever goes down and a rash appears. As a result, the doctor may order tests to make sure that the fever is not caused by another type of infection.

How Is Roseola Treated?

In most cases, roseola does not require treatment other than trying to bring down a high fever. Antibiotics cannot treat roseola because it is caused by a virus.

Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) can help to reduce your child's fever. Avoid giving aspirin to a child because the use of aspirin in such cases has been associated with the development of Reye's syndrome, which can lead to liver failure. A sponge or towel soaked in cool water may help comfort the child until the fever drops. Ice, cold water, alcohol rubs, cold baths, and fans should be avoided.

Encourage your child to drink clear fluids such as water with ice chips, children's electrolyte solutions, sodas like ginger ale, or clear broth. Fluids decrease the risk of dehydration.

Call your child's doctor if your child is lethargic, not drinking, or if you cannot keep his fever down. 

Can Roseola Be Prevented?

There is no known way to prevent the spread of roseola. The infection usually affects young children but rarely adults. Therefore, it is thought that exposure to roseola in childhood may provide some lasting immunity to the illness. Repeat cases of roseola may occur, but they are not common.

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