What Is Roseola?

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on March 09, 2021
2 min read

Roseola is a common virus that infects children under age 2. Most of the time, it’s nothing to worry about, and kids get better on their own. It's also sometimes called “sixth disease.”

A child may not have any symptoms for 5-15 days after getting the virus that causes roseola. When symptoms do appear, the first thing you’ll notice is a sudden, high fever (over 103 F) that lasts or can come and go for 3-7 days.

Other than the fever, your child might seem healthy. They may be restless or irritable. Once the fever goes away, they might also develop a raised, spotty, reddish rash, mainly on their neck and trunk. It doesn’t itch and may last just a few hours or a few days.

Your child might also have diarrhea, cough, and droopy or swollen eyelids.

It’s an infection brought on by human herpesvirus 6 or, occasionally, human herpesvirus 7. It remains in the child’s body but usually remains latent, or turned off.

It’s most common in infants and children between 6 and 24 months old.

A doctor usually knows your child has roseola because of the telltale symptoms: high fever followed by rash. Usually, no lab tests are needed.

Since it’s caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t help cure it. So, your child’s doctor will likely just treat their symptoms to make them more comfortable.

For high fever, they might recommend acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If your child develops other symptoms or becomes very sick, they may order blood or urine tests.

Roseola is contagious, so your doctor will tell you to keep your child away from others, at least until the fever goes away. Once it’s been gone for at least 24 hours, they can play with other kids, even if they still have a rash.

Sometimes, a very high fever may cause seizures. If this happens to your child, they might pass out for a short time. Their arms and legs may jerk for many seconds or minutes. They could also lose control of their bladder and bowels.

If your child has a seizure, call 911. Luckily, most seizures in young children don’t last long and aren’t harmful.