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Does my baby have a Roseola Rash (Exanthema Subitum)?

A roseola rash also named Exanthema Subitum is a viral illness caused by 2 human herpes viruses (HHV-6 and HHV-7).

Infant with roseola rash

About 90% of all infants get infected with the Roseola virus by the age of 3.

Roseola is also known as Roseola Infantum or sixth disease.

On this page:

Incubation period - Roseola symptoms - Contagious period - Roseola treatment


Roseola incubation period

The incubation period is about 10 days. The illness usually starts with a sudden fever that can run up to 103-106 F (39.4-41.2 C). Typical for Roseola is the sudden rash that follows when the fever drops.

Roseola appears as light pink to red slightly raised or flat spots that start at a child’s chest and than spreads to the face, arms and legs. See roseola rash picture below. The rash is not itchy and lasts usually 2 to 3 days.

Roseola rash
roseola rash or exanthema subitum

If you are not sure your child’s rash is Roseola?

Try pressing the rash, it should turn white and than come back when you release the pressure.

It is generally believed that an infection with Roseola provides lifelong immunity and it is very rare a child gets infected twice.


Symptoms of Roseola

Apart from the high fever and the sudden rash a child may have other symptoms like

  • sore throat.
  • swollen neck glands.
  • being irritable.
  • decreased appetite.

As most of us know a high fever of 100.4 and more can cause a seizure ( body convulsions) in infants. This is very frightening for parents to watch. A febrile fever usually last a few minutes and passes on its own without any long term health effects.


When is Roseola contagious?

The Roseola contagious period is from 2 days before the fever starts until the child is completely fever free.

The infection is spread by fluid drops coming out of a child’s mouth when he coughs or sneezes. By breathing these fluid drops someone can get infected with Roseola.

A child with just a rash that is fever free for two days is not contagious anymore and is allowed to return to daycare.


Treatment for Roseola

Roseola is a benign child hood disease that usually resolves on its own within a week without any special Roseola treatment. If necessary you can give your child some fever reducers like Tylenol or ibuprofen. Make sure you give your child plenty of fluid to avoid dehydration.
Usually the rash is not itchy and causes your child no discomfort, but if it does, you can give some benadryl for relief. You can bath your child as you normally would. A lukewarm bath may also help to reduce your child’s fever.

Consult your doctor when your infant refuses to drink, hardly responds to you or has a fever of 103 F or higher.



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