Roseola – Brought To You By Your Old Friend, Herpes
Being the herpes fan that I am, I am excited to write another post about these interesting viruses.
A common childhood rash. I bet you didn’t know that herpesviruses are the cause of one of the most common childhood rashes: roseola. I didn’t know this until I started studying viruses. But I did remember that roseola is so common it was one of those diseases that wiser, older women would easily diagnose in the children in the neighborhood.
Who gets roseola? Roseola, sometimes also called sixth disease, baby measles (although it has nothing to do with measles) or three -day fever usually infects children less than 2 years of age. Sometimes though, it is also seen during the late teenage years.
Roseola symptoms. Roseola has a sudden onset of a high fever, sometimes as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit. In rare cases the high fever can lead to febrile seizures. Children may also have red eyes, runny nose, swollen glands and a slight cough (kind of like every other cold your child will have!).
The fever leaves after a few days, but then a pinkish-red rash will appear. The rash usually starts on the trunk and then spreads to the legs and neck. The rash will last 1-2 days. Unlike other rashes, the rash is not itchy.
Roseola is caused by 2 herpesviruses! Both human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) and human herpesvirus 7 (HHV-7) cause roseola. (Aren’t herpesvirologists creative when it comes to naming viruses?). Like all herpesviruses, once you are infected with either of these viruses, they will hide out in your body for the rest of your life.
HHV-6 and HHV-7 are extremely common. Both HHV-6 and HHV-7 are found in at least 90% of adults. However, most of the time neither virus causes disease; only about 20% of infected children develop symptoms of roseola.
There is no specific treatment for roseola. No vaccine exists for HHV-6 or HHV-7 and no drugs are approved for the specific treatment of roseola symptoms. However, they are often so mild children do not need treatment. Acetominophen or ibruprofen (but NEVER aspirin) can be given to bring the high fever down.
Roseola is not a sexually transmitted disease. Although roseola is caused by herpesviruses, it is not a sexually transmitted disease. The viruses are spread in saliva and in mucous, so coughing and sneezing spread roseola easily. The rash does not spread roseola.
If your child should get roseola, just remember, it is only another herpesvirus saying hello!