What is roseola infantum?
Roseola, also known as the 'three-day rash' or the 'sixth disease', is a common viral condition in infants. It is caused by the human herpesvirus 6 (HHV 6). Children between the age of 9 and 12 months are most commonly affected. The most common first symptom is a high fever in a child who is otherwise well. After three days, the fever drops and a pink, blotchy rash appears on the trunk, arms and legs. Roseola usually gets better after a few days without any treatment.
Roseola infantum is caused by the human herpesvirus 6, a virus which is spread by droplets in the air coming from the throat and nose of an infected person when he coughs or sneezes. Roseola is contagious and community-wide outbreaks can occur. Children with roseola are most contagious while they have the fever. Roseola mainly affects children between the age of 6 months and 4 years, and is most common between 9-21 months of age. Sometimes adults with a weak immune system or who never contracted roseola as a child can develop the condition.
People with roseola often develop a high fever 5 to 15 days after catching the virus. The fever drops after three days and a non-itchy rash appears, which spreads from the trunk to the arms and legs. The rash usually disappears after two days.
The diagnosis is usually made by the typical symptoms of the condition. A roseola infection is confirmed by the typical rash or, in some cases, by a blood test to check for antibodies (immune proteins which fight infection) against roseola.
There is no specific treatment for roseola infection, and symptoms usually pass within 5 to 7 days. People with roseola should rest and drink plenty of fluids, especially when the fever is at its highest point. It might be helpful to take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower the fever.
There is no vaccine for roseola. Maintaining good hygiene when sick (eg. washing hands, covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, staying home when unwell) may help to prevent some episodes of roseola.
Other names for roseola infantum
- Roseola infantum
- Baby measles
- Exanthema subitum
- HHV-6 infection
- Rose rash of infants
- Sixth disease
- Three-day fever