Roseola is a common childhood infection that usually infects children under the age 2. It chiefly happens due to two common strains of the herpes virus and typically characterizes several days of fever, followed by a rash. It is also referred to as the Sixth Disease since historically, it is placed on the standard list of rash-causing childhood diseases, which also includes measles (first), scarlet fever (second), rubella (third), Dukes' disease (fourth, but is no longer widely accepted as distinct), Slapped Cheek Syndrome (fifth) and roseola (sixth).
The infection is usually not serious and typically affects children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years but can also sometimes affect adults. Statistics state that most kids have had roseola by the time they reach kindergarten.
Since the symptoms are similar to measles, some people often misconstrue roseola with measles. However, rashes formed in either case is distinctly different. While the rash formed during measles is usually red or reddish-brown, which starts on the face and works its way down, ultimately covering the entire body with blotches of bumps, the rashes formed due to roseola are pink or rosy and chiefly starts on the abdomen before spreading to the face, arms, and legs. Additionally, children often start to feel better as soon as the rashes appear in roseola, whereas in case of measles, even after the rash appears, fever continues and kids may still feel ill or sick.
The roseola usually happens due to two specific strains of herpes virus, i.e., human herpes virus 6, and human herpes virus 7. Just like any other viral infection, roseola infection is contagious in nature and hence it spreads easily from one person to another via direct contact of the infected person’s respiratory secretions or saliva. This transfer from person to person can also happen even before development of rashes, i.e., when the person just has fever and is still unaware of the exact cause. Roseola can happen any time of the year and unlike chickenpox or other childhood contagious infections, it doesn’t pose a threat of a communitywide outbreak.
Certain causative factors increase the risk of roseola. These include:
Age: Although, it can even happen to adults, toddlers and infants are more at risk of developing this contagious infection.
Previous Cancer Treatment: In the case of adults, those who have received chemotherapy are more prone to getting roseola.
Weakened Immune System: Roseola can also happen in people with an already compromised immune system as a result of HIV, organ transplant surgery or cancer.
The most typical sign of roseola is extreme high fever, ranging from 102 - 105°F (38.8-40.5°C), lasting for 3-7 days with the development of rash within 12 –24 hours once the fever goes away. The rash is distinctly pink in colour and may be flat or raised. This skin rash usually develops around the abdomen and then gradually spreads across the face, arms, and legs. This rash is a sign that the virus is at the end of its course. Other lesser common signs and symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat or mild cough
- Swollen glands
- Eyelid swelling
- Ear pain
- Loss of appetite
- Febrile seizures, (convulsions due to a high fever)
Diagnosis And Treatment
Although in some cases, roseola subsides on its own after running its course, it is still better to consult a doctor on noticing the signs and symptoms right away to prevent the infection from spreading on to others. The doctor usually does a thorough physical checkup, acknowledges the patient’s past medical history, carries out a few diagnostic procedures to rule out other similar childhood infections and does a few blood tests to look for specific antibodies that might develop on getting exposed to the virus causing roseola.
Most children and adults usually recover within a week of the onset of fever on their own. But the doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medications to subside fever and headache. The doctor may also prescribe antiviral medications to treat the infection in people with weakened immunity since antibiotics won’t work. Once the fever subsides, the doctor may recommend some lifestyle remedies like taking adequate rest, going for sponge baths and consumption of fluids to help feel better soon.