By Ariel Stateman
Roseola also known as the sixth disease, roseola infantum, and exanthema subitum, is a very common viral infection. The infection is caused by two strains of herpes virus; human herpes virus 6 (which is more common) as well as human herpes virus 7. The greatest population at risk are infants, generally from 6 months to 15 months, since their immune systems are not fully developed. Most children will have had the virus before the age of 2.
The virus is transmitted though respiratory secretions. So when a child who has roseola sneezes, talks, or coughs, tiny droplets are sent into the air, allowing others to breathe in the virus. The virus droplets can also land on surfaces and another child can touch that surface and then put their hands in their mouth or nose and become infected.
The infection can be confused with the flu since symptoms are very similar (fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough). However, towards the end of infection, the child will usually develop a pink-colored rash. (Not all children develop this rash). The rash begins on the torso and then spreads to the arms, legs, neck and face. The pink spots can be flat or raised, and some may have a halo or lighter ring around them. Symptoms of the infections normally last 5 to 15 days. There are no vaccines or specific treatment for roseola. It is best for the child to get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and stay away from other infants/children since roseola is contagious. There are over-the-counter medications that may be taken for pain relief and to reduce fever (Tylenol, Advil, Motrin) as well as some antiviral medication (Cytovene). (Note: Never give a child under 16 years old aspirin unless a doctor recommends it since aspirin has been linked to Reye’s syndrome). Antibiotics will not work to treat roseola since antibiotics do not work against viruses (and roseola is caused by the herpes virus). The infection will need to run its course. I hope you learned a little more about roseola. Stay tuned for more crash courses!
About the author -- Ariel Stateman is a recent graduate of the M.S. in Biomedical Sciences at the Larkin University College of Biomedical Sciences. Ariel is also a Research Assistant - Intern in the RIPL_Effect Research Team under the mentorship of principal investigator, Dr. Félix E. Rivera-Mariani. Ariel is one of the founders of the RIPL_Effect Research Team, and during her time as a graduate student at the Larkin University College of Biomedical Sciences, she was one of the Co-Leaders with the group (together with Josh Baguley)