Roseola: the sixth disease (childhood disease)

Roseola, also called sixth disease, is a common viral infection in children. After a symptomless incubation period of five to twelve days, a high fever suddenly occurs, which can last three to five days. During this time the child may become irritable and sometimes febrile convulsions occur.

Roseola: The sixth disease

On the fourth or fifth day of the illness, the fever subsides quickly and the rash appears . This consists of small, red, flat spots, approximately two millimeters in diameter. These can quickly spread to the neck, face and limbs.
The rash disappears after a day or two, sometimes even within a few hours. When the rash appears, the child has usually recovered somewhat and is no longer contagious. Roseola occurs almost exclusively in children between six months and two years of age and more often in the spring and autumn. The disease is not dangerous and complications do not occur once the infection has cleared. Treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms. See the next paragraph for this.

Symptoms of roseola

What are the symptoms?

  • Sudden fever, sometimes above 40 degrees.
  • Irritability.
  • Skin rash spreading from the trunk to the neck, face and limbs.
  • A sore throat.
  • Swollen glands in the neck.
  • Sometimes convulsions.


Causes of roseola or sixth disease

Roseola is caused by the human herpes virus 6 ( HHV 6 ). An infected child with HHV 6 can transmit the infection to other children.

Prevention of roseola

Good advice is to take proper hygienic measures , for example by having the children wash their hands after using the toilet and before eating. Although in some cases it is difficult to observe, one should try to avoid contact with infected children.

Treatment of sixth disease

Paracetamol is often used against fever, but be careful. Do not use aspirin , as the child is at risk for Reye’s disease. This is a rare but dangerous inflammation in children. Remedies are available at common drugstores. The child can also be sponged with lukewarm water to reduce the fever. If you have a high fever, try to avoid physical exertion.

When should I go to the doctor?

See a doctor if your child develops a high fever, with or without swollen lymph nodes. This high fever can also occur with a number of serious diseases that require medical attention. It is an emergency if your child has convulsions. Then seek immediate medical attention or go to the nearest hospital.

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