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Does Your Child Have Roseola Infantum? 5 Natural Ways to Treat It

Published | 5 min read

Roseola infantum causes high fever, cold symptoms, and sometimes a rash in young children. It's treatable using both Western medicine and TCM.

A mother checks a feverish toddler’s forehead.

A high fever is a common concern among parents with infants or toddlers. Fortunately, if it’s roseola infantum, a common cause of high fever in young children, it will likely resolve soon. 

Typically accompanied by cold-like symptoms and occasionally a rash, the fever usually resolves within three to seven days. Read on to learn more, including clinical and natural ways to help your little one through the illness. 

Roseola Infantum: Causes and Symptoms

Four young children running outdoors on green grass
A child with roseola infantum may still feel well enough to play with other children, unknowingly infecting them

Roseola infantum (“rose rash of infants”) is also known as exanthema subitum (“sudden rash”) and sixth disease. The “sixth” refers to human herpes 6 virus that accounts for most roseola infantum cases. 

Symptoms of roseola infantum may include: 

  • Fever higher than 39.5 degrees Celsius 
  • Cold symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, sore throat, upset stomach, and general discomfort 
  • Non-itchy red rashes that start on the trunk and spread to the limbs  
  • Febrile seizure 

A high fever that appears suddenly is the most common feature of symptomatic cases. Meanwhile, the red rash that occurs soon after the fever subsides affects about 20% of cases. Some children may appear fine other than the high fever, while others may also present with cold-like symptoms. A febrile seizure due to the high fever is found in about 10 to 15% of cases but is rarely harmful. 

Treatment for Roseola Infantum 

Treatment for roseola infantum focuses primarily on symptom management. Fever reducers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help bring down a child’s high temperature. Soothing fluids and vapour rubs may help those with cold symptoms. If your child gets a rash, it is typically not itchy or painful and will go away independently. 

There is currently no vaccine for roseola infantum. A previous infection appears to protect from future infections. Infected children are most contagious earlier during the infection. The virus is transmitted via saliva and other respiratory droplets through coughing, sneezing, and talking. Proper hygiene and home isolation are recommended to prevent transmission. 

Treating Roseola Infantum with TCM

Two adult hands lightly massage the middle upper back of an infant
Paediatric tuina massage can help reduce symptoms of roseola infantum.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), roseola infantum arises due to the invasion of the exogenous Wind-Heat pathogen, similar to the common cold. The TCM treatment regimen focuses on dispersal, replenishment, and revitalisation, shares TCM physician Lim Sock Ling. 

1. Herbal medicine for Wind-Heat dispersal 

At the onset of fever, TCM emphasises the dispersal of the Wind-Heat pathogen. A commonly used herbal formula is honeysuckle powder (yin qiao san, 银翘散). It’s been used for hundreds of years in TCM, specifically for diseases that often present with a high fever. A 2021 meta-analysis of 1,705 pneumonia patients found that honeysuckle powder combined with Western medicine was more effective than Western medicine alone. 

2. Paediatric tuina to reduce fever 

Paediatric tuina, a TCM healing massage modality for infants and children, complements herbal medicine to reduce fever. In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science, tuina improved fever reduction by 10% compared to TCM herbs alone.

“As the characteristic of roseola infantum is high fever, paediatric tuina can be administered to reduce body temperature. Using the inner surface of the index and middle fingers, stroke the area above the spine from the neck down to the buttocks. This helps clear Heat and promote bowel movement,” says Physician Lim. 

3. Clearing Heat and replenishing fluid using cooling herbs 

“After the rash outbreak and fever subsides, TCM would use herbs to clear Heat and replenish fluid. Some examples are chrysanthemum (ju hua, 菊花), bamboo leaves (dan zhu ye, 淡竹叶), dendrobium (shi hu, 石斛), and Rehmannia root (shu di huang, 熟地黄),” she furthers shares in detail. 

4. Strengthen immunity against recurrent respiratory infections 

Yu Ping Feng powder (玉屏风散) invigorates qi (vital energy) for consolidating superficies and is commonly used to strengthen the immunity of those who are prone to the common flu. In an eight-week study of 351 children with recurrent respiratory tract infections, researchers found it to be as effective as pidotimod (an immunostimulant). However, Physician Lim cautions that those with Yin Deficiency should avoid this formula.

5. Nourishment for vitality 

In TCM, prevention is the frontline defence against any pathogen. Having roseola infantum may protect against future infections due to your child’s immune response to the first infection. However, in TCM, immunity is also built through nourishment.

“According to TCM, if vital energy is strong, the body will resist pathogens. TCM views viruses and bacteria as pathogens. To prevent roseola infantum, one needs to strengthen their vital energy or immunity,” advises Physician Lim.

Make sure that your child eats a balanced and nutritious diet. “Prioritise fresh foods and vegetables from the five colours associated with the internal organs in TCM, Heart, Kidneys, Liver, Spleen, and Lungs. Avoid foods with chemical preservatives,” she reminds. 

Encourage your child to be active while also getting adequate rest. They should get enough movement and exercise during playtime, go to bed before 11pm, and learn to manage stress and anger.

Roseola infantum will resolve on its own and responds well to symptom management. It is such a common viral infection that many parents don’t even realise their child has it. Still, take heed of these natural remedies and prevention tips to ensure a swift recovery and healthy, happy days ahead.


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