Did your baby very suddenly develop a high fever? And then, just as they seemed to be getting better, they broke out in a rash? They might have the unsightly but common virus called roseola.
What is it?
Roseola is caused by one of the herpes viruses and it is highly infectious, being passed around by saliva. Your child will be merrily passing it around to anyone they kiss or share a well chewed toy with long before any symptoms show up - it can take between five and 15 days for that to happen.
Roseola is most common in young children aged between nine months and two years and the telltale signs include the sudden onset of a high fever, along with a runny nose and cough, followed by (just as that fever subsides) a pink-red rash which might appear all over your child's body, and also on their neck.
Additional symptoms may include a loss of appetite, a bit of a sore throat, mild diarrhoea and general listlessness. The rash might last anything from half-a-day to two days.
Roseola is not generally anything to worry about and it should be all over and done with within the space of a week. The best news of all is, if your child hasn't had it by the time they are four years old, the chances are they never will, as most people have developed antibodies to it by this time.
What can I do?
Roseola is caused by a virus and, as such, it can not be treated by antibiotics, it will just run its course. Nevertheless, if you suspect roseola, do take your child to your GP who can properly diagnose it.
In particular, keep an eye on that fever (temperatures can really soar with roseola) and seek help if you feel it is getting dangerously high. Occasionally, a very high temperature can cause a febrile convulsion, and you should seek medical advice if this happens.
Otherwise, stay at home and perform all the usual tricks to help your child feel better! The correct dose of liquid paracetamol or ibuprofen will help bring down the fever and leave your little one feeling a bit more human.
Be sure to offer plenty of drinks to avoid dehydration (this will be particularly important if your baby or child has diarrhoea. If you are breast or bottle feeding, offer extra feeds, little and often. Older children and toddlers might be tempted with an ice lolly, even if they are turning their noses up at food.
If your child's symptoms seem to be getting worse rather than better after a few days, or if you notice any change to their rash, contact your doctor again.
What else could it be?
If your child seemed to initially have a cold, then developed red spots around their ears and neck, followed by spots elsewhere on their body, they might have measles.