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Roseola is an infection that affects most children between the ages of six months and two years. Once they have the infection, children develop antibodies for it - a second infection is extremely rare.

Also known as sixth disease, roseola is marked by high fever (103 degrees Fahrenheit or more) that can last for several days. A child who has contracted roseola may also get small pink rashes on the belly and back within a week or two of infection - doctors advise gently rolling a glass over the rashes to make sure they disappear under the slightest pressure (in case they don’t disappear with slight pressure, contact your paediatrician).

 Two types of herpes virus - Human Herpesvirus 6 (HHV6) and rarely Human Herpesvirus 7 (HHV7) - cause this infection.

Roseola is a communicable disease - it spreads through contact with an infected person.

There is no particular season or time of year when the chances of getting roseola infection are higher. It can happen at any time of the year.

  1. Causes of Roseola Infantum
  2. Risk Factors of Roseola Infantum
  3. Seizures in Roseola Infantum
  4. Prevention and Precautions for Roseola Infantum
  5. Signs and Symptoms of Roseola Infantum

Roseola is contagious viral disease usually caused by HHV6 virus and sometime by HHV7. It spreads through contact with an infected child - the infected child may just have fever, and no rashes or spots yet.

It spreads through sneezes and exhaled air as well as saliva - it can spread by sharing sippy cups with an infected child. One can get infected by inhaling the moisture droplets exhaled by the infected child. One can also catch it by coming in contact with a surface they’ve sneezed or spit-up on. 

After infection, it may take two weeks for a child to develop symptoms - there is also the possibility that they may not show any symptoms or signs despite having the infection.

Newborns and very young infants are less likely to get the infection - this is because the immunity they enjoy in the mother’s womb lasts for a while after they are born. However, it fades away by the age of six months, making babies more susceptible to such infections - by the time they are two years old, their system is strong enough to start making its own antibodies against mild infections.

The main cause of roseola seizures or convulsions is fever. Try not to be frightened - it’s important that you monitor these convulsions - the baby may start kicking or moving their arms or head or body in an unusual way. The child may even fall unconscious for some time or lose control over bowel movements or urination.

Usually, these seizures are very short-lived and babies recover from them. However, seizures should never be ignored and medical care should be taken to avoid any unwanted situation. If the seizure lasts for more than a few seconds, please call your doctor for advice immediately.

 Roseola infection in adults is rare, and can lead to complications. But it can happen, especially in people with a weak immune system and people who have just had an organ transplant surgery. The chances of developing infections like encephalitis - an inflammation in the brain which is also a type of brain fever - or pneumonia are also higher in such patients.

There’s no cure for roseola. However, in most patients, the infection subsides on its own. We all get roseola infection at least once in our lifetime, if not in childhood, then as adults. (Though it becomes less effective in healthy adults, it can still be communicated from one person to another.)

Most of us get our roseola vaccine by the age of four or five years.

  • If your child is diagnosed with roseola, avoid contact with other children to limit exposure until your child’s fever breaks
  • If you are caring for a sick child, it is still important to wash your hands regularly
  • If you have another child in the house, try to keep them apart till the infection subsides

Childhood is the most beautiful phase of our lives and seeing our kids grow is the most beautiful blessing. Let’s make our best efforts to keep them safe and disease-free.

High fever is the most common symptom of roseola. The fever can go up to 103-104 degrees Fahrenheit and can take up to a week to subside. Infants can become fussy and irritable during infection. Often, in mild cases of roseola, children don’t get any other symptoms.

Other symptoms of roseola include

  • Mild respiratory complaints
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes
  • Pinkish-red flat or roused rashes on the belly and back once the fever starts to subside (the rashes may have a white outline). In some cases, the rashes may spread to the hands, legs, neck and face. Typically the rashes aren’t itchy and fade away on their own in a few days 
  • Some children may have seizures brought on by high fever (febrile seizures). Roseola is responsible for the onset of febrile convulsions in 15-20% of children around the world. It is important to note the duration and frequency of these seizures - if they last more than a few seconds, your child may need urgent medical attention.
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References

  1. Tessa B. Mullins; Karthik Krishnamurthy. Roseola Infantum (Exanthema Subitum, Sixth Disease). [Updated 2019 Jun 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan
  2. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Roseola infantum
  3. Healthdirect Australia. Roseola infantum. Australian government: Department of Health
  4. Roseola (exanthem subitum, sixth disease) - including symptoms, treatment and prevention. SA Health. Government of South Australia. [internet]
  5. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Differential Diagnosis of Dengue with Rash
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