Roseola (patient information)

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What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?


Treatment options

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Omodamola Aje B.Sc, M.D. [2]


Roseola is a disease of infants. It is characterized by an abrupt rise in body temperature to as high as 40°C (104°F) followed by a rapid drop to normal within the next 2–4 days which coincides with the appearance of an erythematous maculopapular skin rash that persists for 1–3 days. It is typically a benign disease which resolves without sequalae.

What causes Roseola?

Roseola is common in children ages 3 months to 4 years, and most common in those ages 6 months to 1 year.

It is caused by a virus called human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), although similar syndromes are possible with other viruses.

What are the symptoms of Roseola?

The time between becoming infected and the beginning of symptoms (incubation period) is 5 to 15 days.

The first symptoms include:

  • Eye redness
  • Irritability
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • High fever, that comes on quickly and may be as high as 105° F (40.5° C) and can last 3 to 7 days.

About 2 to 4 days after becoming sick, the child's fever lowers and a rash appears. This rash most often:

  • Starts on the middle of the body and spreads to the arms, legs, neck, and face
  • Is pink or rose-colored
  • Has small sores that are slightly raised
  • The rash lasts from a few hours to 2 to 3 days. It usually does not itch.


Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about the child's medical history. The child may have swollen lymph nodes in the neck or back of the scalp.

Treatment Options

There is no specific treatment for roseola. The disease most often gets better on its own without complications.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and cool sponge baths can help reduce the fever. Some children may have seizures when they get a high fever. If this occurs, call your health care provider or go to the closest emergency room.

Possible complications

Complications may include:

  • Aseptic meningitis (rare)
  • Encephalitis (rare)
  • Febrile seizure

When to contact a medical professional

Call your health care provider if your child:

  • Has a fever that does not go down with the use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) and a cool bath
  • Continues to appear very sick
  • Is irritable or seems extremely tired

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if your child has convulsions


Careful handwashing can help prevent the spread of the viruses that cause roseola.

Alternative names

Exanthem subitum; Sixth disease.