looking after a little one with roseola:
symptoms, cause and treatment

Roseola is a viral infection that comes with a pinkish-red rash, hence the name. Like a lot of children’s rashes, it looks more alarming than it is, and usually clears up on its own within a week. Here’s how to spot and treat roseola.

baby with roseola

what is roseola?

Roseola’s medical name is also sometimes known as sixth disease. It’s most common in babies between the ages of about nine months and two years, although occasionally older children and even adults can catch it.

The virus is usually mild and the good news is that once you’ve had it, you’re very unlikely to get it again.

baby with roseola rash
baby with roseola rash

what are the symptoms of roseola?

Roseola starts with a sudden fever, possibly accompanied by a sore throat, cold symptoms, mild diarrhoea, low appetite, swollen eyelids and swollen neck glands. Three to five days later, when the fever’s gone down, the roseola rash appears. You’ll see pinky-red spots, bumps or patches on your little one’s chest, tummy and back. The rash spreads to the face, neck and arms, then fades after a couple of days. It's worth doing a glass test to check for meningitis – if the spots fade as you roll a glass over them, it's not meningitis.

do we need to see the doctor?

Roseola itself is mild, but it can be tricky to tell the rashy illnesses apart. Speak with your GP for a diagnosis if you want to make sure. If the rash hasn't gone after three days, definitely call your surgery. Roseola can cause fits, which are scary to see but normally harmless. Call 999 if it’s the child’s first seizure, it lasts longer than five minutes or they become drowsy or lose consciousness. With rashes, always use the glass test to check for meningitis.

treating roseola

Roseola treatment usually involves nothing more than a few days of comfort and cosiness at home. You can bring down your child’s temperature with the correct dose of Calpol or an infant ibuprofen. They’ll probably be quite tired, so lots of rest will help. If they’re hot, try a cool sheet on the bed or cot instead of duvets or blankets. Make sure they have plenty of fluids and, apart from this, the best thing you can do is have a ready supply of cuddles and soothing words.

preventing roseola from spreading

Roseola spreads like a cold, through coughs and sneezes. It actually isn’t wildly contagious and, provided your little one feels chirpy enough, there’s no need to keep them away from nursery. Sticking to your usual germ-prevention routines will help prevent any infection: hand-washing, surface-wiping and sneezing into tissues. It’s likely that you're immune to roseola yourself, as most of us have developed a resistance before we even start school. However, if you have a weakened immune system for any reason and your little one catches roseola, speak to your doctor.