What is Scarlet Fever?

Scarlet fever, which is also called scarlatina, is a bacterial infection that is accompanied by a sore throat and a high fever. It causes a bright red rash to appear all over the body.

Scarlet fever usually occurs in children in the 5 to 15-year age group. While it was considered a severe illness in the past, now antibiotics can help clear it in a few days and prevent complications.

Read on to learn more about the condition, its symptoms and treatment options.

What are the Symptoms of Scarlet Fever?

The main scarlet fever symptoms are:

  • Red Rash: A red rash is a common sign of scarlet fever and gives the condition its name. It appears like a sunburn and is fine and rough like sandpaper. It first appears on the face and neck and then spreads towards the torso, arms and legs. It appears darker on the armpits, elbows and knees than the area around it.
  • Flushed Face: A pale ring appears around the mouth and the face appears flushed due to increased blood flow.
  • Strawberry Tongue: The tongue appears red with bumps and has a white coating on its surface.

Other symptoms of scarlet fever include:

  • Fever above 101 degrees F
  • Chills
  • Stomach pain
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Sore throat with yellow or white patches
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Headaches
  • Body aches

The scarlet fever rash and the redness on the face and tongue last for about a week after which they go away and the skin starts to peel.

If you observe the following signs and symptoms in your child, it is advisable to consult your doctor at the earliest:

What are the Causes of Scarlet Fever?

Scarlet fever is caused due to the bacteria that causes strep throat. It is called Group A Streptococcus or Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria or Group A Strep. The bacteria releases a toxin that causes a red rash and red tongue.

Scarlet fever is contagious and spreads from person to person through droplets released while coughing or sneezing.

What are the Risk Factors For Scarlet Fever?

As children in the age group of 5 to 15 years are more likely to get scarlet fever, risk factors of scarlet fever include being in close contact with each other, like in a preschool or a school.
Crowded places and enclosed spaces also increase the risk of contracting scarlet fever.

What are the Complications of Scarlet Fever?

Complications arising from scarlet fever are:

How is Scarlet Fever Diagnosed?

To diagnose scarlet fever, your doctor will first conduct a physical exam of your child.

  • They will check your child’s tongue, throat and tonsils.
  • They will also check for swollen lymph nodes
  • They will check the appearance and texture of the scarlet fever rash.

If your doctor suspects strep infection, they will swab the back of your child’s throat to collect a sample of their cells. A sample of the throat swab will be sent to the laboratory to check for the presence of group A strep.

Your doctor may also order a rapid antigen detection test to identify group A strep infection.

What are the Treatment Options For Scarlet Fever?

If your child has scarlet fever, your doctor will prescribe a 10-day course of antibiotics. This will kill the bacteria and help strengthen the body’s immune system to fight the infection. The red rashes will disappear in approximately seven days with antibiotics.

Completing the medication dose is crucial in preventing the infection from causing complications.

Your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medications for the fever and the pain. The fever will go within a day of starting the antibiotics and your child will recover within a few days of starting the treatment.

It is advisable to not send the child to school or enclosed spaces until the course of antibiotics has been completed.

What Can You Do for A Child Who Has Scarlet Fever?

Besides antibiotics, you can follow certain home remedies to give your child relief from the symptoms. These include:

  • Ensuring your child has plenty of liquids and soups to avoid dehydration.
  • Helping them gargle with salt water several times a day to get relief from throat pain.
  • Giving them honey for sore throat.
  • Feeding them soft, mashed foods that are easy to swallow such as mashed potatoes, boiled eggs, soft fruits and yoghurt.
  • Applying calamine lotion provides relief from itching.
  • Keeping them away from irritants like cigarette smoke or fumes from incense sticks, paint and cleaning products that can irritate their lungs.

How Can You Prevent Scarlet Fever?

You can prevent infectious diseases, like scarlet fever, by following certain rules of hygiene. They are:

  • Not sending your child to school if there are cases of scarlet fever at school
  • Regularly washing the hands with soap and water
  • Not sharing drinking glasses, water bottles, spoons or plates
  • Covering the nose and mouth with a handkerchief when sneezing or coughing

Summing Up

Scarlet fever is an infectious disease. If left untreated, it can cause complications such as ear infections, sinusitis, pneumonia, skin infections, rheumatic fever and inflammation of the kidneys. Scarlet fever is treated with antibiotics and certain home remedies to provide relief from symptoms such as pain and discomfort. Please consult your doctor at the earliest signs of scarlet fever symptoms. Timely treatment will ensure a quick recovery.

Your doctor might order antigen tests to diagnose scarlet fever. Opt for Metropolis Labs which provides home visits for your convenience and quick results that help in timely treatments.



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