Practical advice for new parents

Roseola

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Roseola is a typically common viral condition for babies between the ages of six months and two years that, although mostly harmless for your baby, can produce symptoms that leave parents both startled and worried. Roseola is also known as the 'Sixth Disease', 'Exanthem Subitum', 'Roseola Infantum' and in some European countries, the 'Three Day Fever'.

The Roseola virus is most often contracted by your baby having contact with other infants who are carrying the Roseola virus. Because the incubation period of Roseola is about 10 days it is most likely that a baby will become infected long before any visible symptoms become apparent. It is believed that Roseola is transmitted through the tiny droplets of fluid that are projected when a baby sneezes or coughs, or through the transference of saliva. As babies are prone to constantly placing their hands in their mouths the spread of Roseola is virtually impossible to prevent if your child is in contact with other children.

Roseola normally begins with the baby developing a mild fever (over 102 degrees F. or 39 degrees C.). This normally lasts anywhere from 3 to 7 days and in some cases can be accompanied by mild respitory problems. During this time your baby is likely to lose his/her appetite and will probably become irritable. Your baby's temperature should remain relatively constant while the fever remains, but try to monitor your baby's temperature to make sure there are no dramatic increases. If the temperature rises unduly then contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Notwithstanding the fact that a fever alone is worrying enough for parents, one of the more startling symptoms of Roseola is the possible discovery of small lumps under the skin of the baby, most often in the lower and upper neck area (although they might also occur in other areas on the body). These lumps are lymph nodes and the human body has hundreds of them scattered around the body acting as filters, loosely speaking, fighting germs and other 'nasties' present in the bloodstream. While lumps of any description can be alarming and shouldn't be ignored, a 'normal' enlarged lymph node should be able to move freely (limited range) under the skin and have a slightly rubbery feel to it. If you feel a lump that is 'fixed' in position (appears to be attached to the skin or the underlying tissue), or appears hard to the touch, you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible. A swollen lymph node therefore is a sign of the body doing what the body was intended to do.

The final flourish of the Roseola virus is the development of small spots (that later enlarge to become pink colored patches) over the baby's torso once the fever breaks. The spots begin on your baby's chest and back area and may spread to the extremities quite quickly. The spots and patches are not overly itchy and will cause no lasting scarring to your baby so treatment is not necessary and the spots and patches should disappear within a few days.

It is possible for babies to contract the Roseola virus more than once but in most cases dealing with Roseola the first time builds up the baby's immune system so that the return of Roseola is not likely.

Roseola Treatment

In most cases Roseola requires no treatment however there are medications available to help with your baby's fever if you wish, but always check with your doctor first. Once the fever breaks and the spots appear there is nothing to do but to wait out the end of the virus.

The best thing you can do for your baby during this whole time is to comfort him/her and make sure your baby drinks plenty of fluids. During the fever try to keep your baby cool (not cold) and make sure that your baby's clothing is light and cool. Feed your baby what food you can, but bear in mind that your child's appetite will most likely be diminished while the fever remains. If your baby appears lethargic, won't take in fluids or if the fever appears unusually high then consult your doctor immediately.

As always, make sure you take advice from your own health professional as your primary source of information concerning any issue to do with your baby's health and well being.

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