Roseola (exanthem subitum, sixth disease) - including symptoms, treatment and prevention

Roseola is caused by infection with a virus called human herpes virus-6 (HHV-6). Almost all children have been infected with HHV-6 by the age of 2 years.

How roseola is spread

Roseola is likely spread by direct contact with the saliva of an infected person, frequently from mother to infant. It is also spread from mother to child during birth.

Signs and symptoms of roseola

Symptoms include the sudden onset of a high fever that lasts 3 to 5 days and then falls, at which time a rash appears. The rash looks similar to the measles rash, but appears first on the body rather than the face. Roseola is usually a mild illness, although it can lead to seizures (fits) caused by the high fever.

Diagnosis of roseola

Diagnosis is made by clinical presentation.

Incubation period

(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)

About 10 days.

Infectious period

(time during which an infected person can infect others)

Saliva, nasal and throat secretions are most infectious from a few days before until several days after the rash appears.

Treatment for roseola

No specific antiviral therapy is required. Fever may be treated with paracetamol. Aspirin should not be given to children under 12 years of age unless specifically recommended by a doctor.

Prevention of roseola

  • Exclusion from childcare, preschool, school or work is not necessary
  • follow good hand washing procedures
  • dispose of soiled tissues appropriately
  • there is no vaccine available to prevent this infection.

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