Learn more about the symptoms, causes, complications and treatment of this strep-related bacterial infection.
Scarlet fever is a bacterial illness that develops in some people who have strep throat. Also known as scarlatina, scarlet fever features a bright red rash that covers most of the body. Scarlet fever is almost always accompanied by a sore throat and a high fever.
Scarlet fever is most common in children 5 to 15 years of age. Although scarlet fever was once considered a serious childhood illness, antibiotic treatments have made it less threatening. Still, if left untreated, scarlet fever can result in more-serious conditions that affect the heart, kidneys and other parts of the body.
The signs and symptoms that give scarlet fever its name include:
The rash and the redness in the face and tongue usually last about a week. After these signs and symptoms have subsided, the skin affected by the rash often peels. Other signs and symptoms associated with scarlet fever include:
Talk to your doctor if your child has a sore throat with:
Scarlet fever is caused by the same type of bacteria that cause strep throat. In scarlet fever, the bacteria release a toxin that produces the rash and red tongue.
The infection spreads from person to person via droplets expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The incubation period — the time between exposure and illness — is usually two to four days.
Children 5 to 15 years of age are more likely than are other people to get scarlet fever. Scarlet fever germs spread more easily among people in close contact, such as family members or classmates.
If scarlet fever goes untreated, the bacteria may spread to the:
Rarely, scarlet fever can lead to rheumatic fever, a serious condition that can affect the:
There is no vaccine to prevent scarlet fever. The best prevention strategies for scarlet fever are the same as the standard precautions against infections:
If your child has scarlet fever, wash his or her drinking glasses, utensils, and, if possible, toys in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher.
During the physical exam, your doctor will:
If your doctor suspects strep is the cause of your child's illness, he or she will also swab the tonsils and back of your child's throat to collect material that may harbor the strep bacteria.
Tests for the strep bacteria are important because a number of conditions can cause the signs and symptoms of scarlet fever, and these illnesses may require different treatments. If there are no strep bacteria, then some other factor is causing the illness.
If your child has scarlet fever, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. Make sure your child completes the full course of medication. Failure to follow the treatment guidelines may not completely eliminate the infection and will increase your child's risk of developing complications.
Your child can return to school when he or she has taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours and no longer has a fever.
You can take a number of steps to reduce your child's discomfort and pain.
You're likely to first see your family doctor or your child's pediatrician. However, when you call to set up your appointment, you may be urged to seek immediate medical care if your child is experiencing any of the following:
Before your appointment, you might want to write a list of questions for the doctor:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to talk about in-depth. Your doctor may ask:
December 22nd, 2020