The sixth disease is a mild spot disease and is caused by the herpes virus (types 6 and 7). The disease usually occurs in children aged 6 months to 3 years. sixth disease is therefore considered a childhood disease. Sixth disease often begins in infants and toddlers with a sudden onset of high fever, lasting three to five days. Within 12-24 hours after a fever breaks out, a rash appears, mainly on the trunk, but sometimes also on the face. These are small, light red spots. These spots are not itchy and disappear within a few days.
- What is sixth disease or roseola?
- Causes of sixth disease or roseola
- Symptoms of sixth disease or roseola
- Symptoms of sixth disease in older children
- Examination and diagnosis
- Physical examination
- Differential diagnosis
- Treatment of roseola or sixth disease
- General measures
Sixth disease rash / Source: Emiliano Burzagli, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)
What is sixth disease or roseola?
The sixth disease is also called three-day fever and its Latin name is exanthema subitum or roseola infantum, also known as roseola for short. The sixth disease is a mild spot disease, the condition is accompanied by a rash and is caused by a virus. It is generally quite harmless and most common in children aged 6 months to 2 years. It rarely occurs in children over four years of age. The average age at which a child becomes infected is when he is 9 months old. Older children, teenagers and adults are infected much less often. This is because approximately 77% of adults have already had this disease as a child and therefore cannot become ill again.
Causes of sixth disease or roseola
The sixth disease is caused by two common herpes viruses (HHV-6 and HHV-7). The viruses belong to the herpes virus family, but they do not cause the common cold sores or genital infections that herpes simplex viruses can cause. The viruses are spread by small droplets of fluid from the nose and throat of infected people. These droplets are spread through talking, sneezing or coughing. The incubation period, that is, the period between exposure to the virus and the time the first symptoms appear, is 9 to 10 days.
Symptoms of sixth disease / Source: M Davis, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)
Symptoms of sixth disease or roseola
The signs and symptoms of sixth disease vary and depend on the age of the patient. In infants and toddlers, sixth disease often begins with a sudden onset of high fever (39 to 40.5 °C), which lasts three to five days, but in some cases longer. The fever ends as suddenly as it started. In addition, they suffer from irritability, earache, sore throat, swollen glands in the throat and neck, runny nose, and possibly mild diarrhea. Within 12-24 hours after a fever breaks out, a rash appears, mainly on the trunk, but sometimes also on the face. These are small, light red spots. These spots are not itchy and usually disappear within one or two days.
Symptoms of sixth disease in older children
Older children are more likely to develop an illness characterized by a high fever for several days and possibly a runny nose and diarrhea. They are less likely to develop a rash as the fever subsides.
It is unknown how long the contagious period of sixth disease lasts, but the disease is likely contagious until the rash clears.
A complication that can sometimes occur due to the rapidly rising temperature are febrile convulsions.
Examination and diagnosis
The diagnosis of roseola can be made on the basis of the typical skin rash or, in some cases, by a blood test in which the doctor checks the antibodies against roseola.
The symptoms of sixth disease sometimes resemble those of measles, rubella or pneumococcal infection.
Make sure the child gets enough rest / Source: Kheinz, Pixabay
Treatment of roseola or sixth disease
It is important that the child gets enough to drink to prevent dehydration. Infants especially dehydrate easily. The fever can be treated with paracetamol or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to anyone under 20 years of age as this increases the risk of Reye’s syndrome. The rash disappears without medical treatment.
It is also important that the sick child gets sufficient rest. Thin, loose-fitting clothing is recommended so that the body can lose excess heat.
The condition is benign and resolves spontaneously. However, a few children may experience febrile convulsions. Very occasionally, the infection can return in immunocompromised children. Most children have no residual symptoms and have an excellent prognosis.
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