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Table of Contents > Conditions > Roseola
Signs and Symptoms
What Causes It?
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Treatment Options
Drug Therapies
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Following Up
Special Considerations
Supporting Research

Roseola is mainly a childhood disease. Almost all of the cases of roseola occur in the first two or three years of life. Roseola begins with a high fever, usually followed by a rash. About 30 percent of all children in the United States get roseola. There is also a type of roseola that occurs in adults who have a serious illness.

Signs and Symptoms
  • Sudden high fever (103 to 106 F), which usually lasts three to four days. Your child will most likely remain alert in spite of the fever.
  • Rash appears as the fever goes away and lasts three to four days. It may look like measles or rubella. There are rose-colored bumps 2 to 3 mm in diameter. The rash usually appears first on the trunk of the body. It may spread to the neck, arms, and legs but rarely to the face.
  • Seizures happen in 5 to 35 percent of all cases of roseola. They will not cause brain damage, and they usually go away when the fever goes down. Seizures may also occur without the rash.
  • Breathing problems, ear infections, and diarrhea occur in about half the cases.

What Causes It?

Roseola is caused by the human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6). It is still unknown how the disease is spread but it may be present in saliva. The incubation period is 5 to 15 days.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Your child's health care provider may take blood to check for other conditions and complications. He or she will take your child's temperature and talk to you about how to take care of your child's roseola at home.

Treatment Options
Drug Therapies
  • Drugs such as acetaminophen lower fever. They also can reduce the discomforts and aches related to fever. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if you take it for long periods or in high doses. Do not use aspirin in the setting of roseola because it may cause a very serious illness called Reye's syndrome.
  • Make sure your child drinks a lot of fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Sedatives, such as diazepam, may reduce the chance of seizure.
  • Phenobarbital is sometimes given for seizures.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Herbal teas are fever-reducing, and calming. Adult doses are listed, unless otherwise specified. The formula to determine the child's dose is (age of child divided by 20) x adult dose. Adult doses may be given to the mother to treat breast-feeding babies.


Immune stimulating: vitamin C (250 to 500 mg two times a day) and zinc (30 to 60 mg per day).


Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots.

  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria) lowers fever and reduces spasms.
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita) reduces gas, has been historically used for colds and fevers
  • Elder (Sambucus nigra) calms your child and reduces fever.
  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) for an upset stomach and upper respiratory irritation; calming
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) reduces fever, helps appetite loss
  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) stimulates immune system, is a relaxant (to allow for sleep)

Mix four to six of the above and drink as a tea, 1 cup three to four times per day or as a tincture, 60 drops three to four times per day. In addition, a strong tea (2 tbsp. herb) can be added to a bath to keep fever down.

Garlic/gingertea—one to three cloves garlic (Allium sativum) and one to three slices of fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale)—may be drunk to stimulate the immune system and prevent upper respiratory infections. Lemon and a sweetener may be added for flavor. Do not give honey to children under 2 years old.


There have been few studies examining the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. Professional homeopaths, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for roseola based on their knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type. In homeopathic terms, a person's constitution is his or her physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.

  • Aconitum — for individuals who have a sudden high fever, especially when the fever is accompanied by restless anxiety; this remedy is best when used very early in disease, before a rash appears
  • Belladonna — for individuals who have a sudden high fever that rises during the night and is accompanied by flushed face and red lips; the skin tends to be hot to the touch, but extremities feel cold; children for whom this remedy is appropriate tend to be very agitated and may even be delirious
  • Pulsatilla — for individuals who have fever and chills that are worse in warm rooms but better in fresh air; symptoms tend to be less intense than for the other remedies listed

Physical Medicine

Warming socks. Wet cotton socks with cold water, wring them out, and put on the feet. Put on dry wool socks over the cotton socks and go to bed. This treatment, while uncomfortable at first, will help disperse a fever and allow for a good night's sleep.

Wet sheet wrap. Wrap the child in a cotton sheet that is wet with cold water and wrung out. Then wrap the child in another blanket. Especially in infants, this will disperse a fever and allow a restful sleep.


Acupressure for children may be quite calming and help reduce the fever.


Gentle massage may relieve discomfort. A foot massage may help relax the child. Some children will not want to be touched, however.

Following Up

Most children get well within about a week with no problems. If your child has a seizure, call your provider or emergency room immediately.

Special Considerations

Avoiding infected children is the only prevention. There is no vaccine for roseola.

Supporting Research

Behrman RE, Kliegman RM, Nelson WE, Arvin AM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 15th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Co; 1996.

Bove M. An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants. Stamford, Conn: Keats Publishing; 1996:174-176.

Carr AC, Frei B. Toward a new recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C based on antioxidant and health effects in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69(6):1086-1107.

Cummings S, Ullman D. Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam; 1997: 113.

Fauci AS, Braunwald E, Isselbacher KJ, et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1998.

JAMA Patient Page. How much vitamin C do you need? JAMA. 1999;281(15):1460.

Johnston CS. Recommendations for vitamin C intake. JAMA. 1999;282(22):2118-2119.

Levine M, Rumsey SC, Daruwala R, Park JB, Wang Y. Criteria and recommendations for vitamin C intake. JAMA. 1999;281(15):1415-1453.

Morrison R. Desktop Guide to Keynotes and Confirmatory Symptoms. Albany, Calif: Hahnemann Clinic Publishing; 1993:3-6, 58-62, 115-117, 310-315.

Ullman D. Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam; 1992: 86.

Ullman D. The Consumer's Guide to Homeopathy. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam; 1995: 176.

Review Date: August 1999
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Robert A. Anderson, MD, President, American Board of Holistic Medicine, East Wenatchee, WA; Marc Micozzi, MD, PhD, College of Physicians, Philadelphia, PA; Paul Rogers, MD, Facility Medical Director, Bright Oaks Pediatrics, Bel Air MD.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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