My three-year old son, Deon Kalanzo, attends kindergarten and he was recently diagnosed with roseola, a viral illness. The disease started with a high fever and soon after it cleared he developed a severe rash. According to his paediatrician, he could have contracted roseola from school, as it is highly contagious. Kindly enlighten us about the disease.
Lilian Kathoki Machakos
Understanding the disease…
Roseola, a common childhood illness, is a viral disease caused by human herpesvirus 6 virus. The virus belongs to the same family as the herpes simplex viruses (HSV). However, the human herpesvirus 6 virus does not cause cold sores and genital herpes infections that HSV causes. Roseola, also known as the sixth-disease, is contagious and is spread through fluids from the nose and throat of the infected child. The fluids are expelled when the infected child sneezes, coughs, talks or even laughs. The incubation period after exposure to the virus is between nine to 15 days. Roseola, which has a sudden onset and a short duration, commonly affects children aged between six months and three years. Older children are less susceptible.
The onset of roseola is a high fever of about 40°C, which can last between three to seven days. Other symptoms include swollen glands in the front or back of the neck, puffy eyelids, bulging of the fontanel (the soft spot on the head), and seizures due to the high fever. In some cases the baby can develop a runny nose, stomachache, diarrhoea or vomit. The child may also have a decreased appetite.
When the fever subsides, the baby will develop a severe reddish or pinkish rash. The rash develops first on the chest and back before spreading to the arms and legs. At times, the rash can also appear on the face. Unlike many other rashes, the roseola rash is not itchy. The rash can last for a few hours or seven to ten days.
Diagnosis and treatment…
Your child’s paediatrician will make diagnosis by analysing the symptoms and the period your child has had them. A full medical examination can also be carried out in cases where the rash has not developed and a diagnosis can’t be made basing only on they symptoms present, as they may be classical symptoms of a different disease. To rule out the possibilities of other infections and to ascertain that it is roseola, the paediatrician will run tests including blood or/and urine test.
There is no specific treatment for roseola, and it clears by itself without complications. But to relieve the fever, the paediatrician will prescribe fever-relieving medicine. The prescription depends on your child’s age and the severity of the fever. You can also help bring down the fever by sponge bathing your child with lukewarm water. Never sponge bath your child with cold water as he might shiver during the exercise. Also, ensure that your child dresses in light clothes, gets enough rest and takes plenty or fluids, preferably fresh juices and water. It is advisable to isolate your child to prevent further spread. Also, ensure to take your child for check up soon after recovery.
Generally, roseola is a mild illness and seldom leads to other serious illnesses. However, in more serious cases, roseola can lead to jaundice or the swelling of the lymph nodes. There is no vaccination for roseola.
If your child develops the above mentioned symptoms it is best to seek medical advice. Do not result to over the counter medication. The reoccurrence of roseola is rare.