This common viral infection usually develops in babies aged 6 months to a year old although young children can also be affected. Most babies and children will have experienced this disease by their second birthday.

Roseola is a harmless but uncomfortable condition which usually clears up without the need for treatment. But speak to your GP if your child is under the age of two as there is a risk of complications which can be problematic in babies.

Symptoms of roseola

Roseola involves a series of stages which are as follows:

  • A fever develops which usually lasts for three to four days before disappearing.
  • Other symptoms appear at the same time: these include a cough, listlessness, earache, diarrhoea, runny nose and little or no appetite. Your baby may be fretful and cry more than usual during this time.
  • Fever disappears to be replaced by a rash. This rash appears as a series of small pinkish-red spots on the face and neck before spreading across the rest of the body.

This rash usually clears after three to four days.

Causes of roseola

This is caused by human herpes virus 6 (HH6) which is part of the group of viruses responsible for cold sores and other infections. But this virus doesn’t cause cold sores. This virus is easily passed from one person to another: for example, through saliva or from not washing the hands properly after visiting the toilet. Roseola has an incubation period of 5 to 15 days. The first symptoms e.g. fever, appear after this period followed by the rash.

Treatment of roseola

The main thing is to keep your baby cool and comfortable during this time. That means plenty of cold drinks, loose cotton clothing and bathing him/her to reduce his/her temperature if need be.

If your baby becomes too warm then remove layers of clothing or the bedclothes.

Give your baby the child version of paracetamol or ibuprofen but check first with your pharmacist or GP.

You will find that roseola usually disappears without the need for further treatment. But if your baby’s condition is still the same or has worsened then see your GP.

Complications of roseola

These are rare but do happen so it is as well to be aware of them.

They include:

  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Meningitis (inflammation of the meninges around the brain)
  • Pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs)
  • Hepatitis (an infection of the liver)

These are more likely to occur in babies or children who have a reduced immunity to illness (e.g. an immune system disorder). Hospital treatment will be required in these cases.

If you are concerned about these and/or your baby’s condition then contact your GP.

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