Roseola, also called sixth disease, is a childhood illness caused by a virus. It is most common in babies and children under 2 years of age. Roseola usually starts with a slight cold. The child then gets a high fever (between 102° and 105° F) that usually lasts between three and seven days.

Although roseola is rarely serious, there is a small risk of febrile (fever-related) seizures. The risk is highest early in the illness when the fever is rising quickly. Some children with roseola have a slight cough, reduced appetite and mild diarrhea.

After the child's temperature returns to normal, she develops a rash. The rash usually starts on the back or stomach and then spreads to the upper arms and neck. It usually clears up in about one day. Once the rash is gone, the child can resume normal activities.

Roseola is contagious, but you probably can't protect your child from it. It is usually spread by respiratory droplets or saliva from a child who has no obvious symptoms of the illness.

Call your child's health care provider right away if your child:

  • Develops any fever of more than 100.4° F in the first 3 months of life, 101° F or greater between 3 and 6 months, or 103° F after 6 months of age
  • Has a seizure

Your child should feel better within a week. In the meantime, you can make her more comfortable if you:

  • Dress your child in light clothing.
  • Encourage her to get extra rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Ask your child's health care provider if you should give her infant's or children's acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) for the fever. Never give aspirin to a child or teenager with a fever without checking with a health care provider. Aspirin can cause a rare, but life-threatening disorder called Reye syndrome in children with certain viral illnesses (including colds, flu and chickenpox).
  • Give her cool sponge baths to help lower her temperature.

Last reviewed: December, 2013