Is Scarlet Fever?
Scarlet fever, also known as scarlatina, is an infection that can
develop in people who have strep throat. The infection is caused by group A streptococcus bacteria, which are the
same bacteria that cause strep throat.
These bacteria produce a toxin, or poison, that causes a bright red rash on the
body. The scarlet-colored rash is what gives scarlet fever its name. Aside from
the rash, people with scarlet fever usually have a high fever and sore throat.
Scarlet fever mainly affects children between ages 5 and 15. It used
to be a common and serious childhood illness, but it’s relatively rare today. Antibiotic
treatments have reduced the severity of the symptoms and the prevalence of the
disease. Researchers aren’t sure why cases of scarlet fever have decreased
while cases of strep throat remain common.
Causes Scarlet Fever?
Scarlet fever is caused by group A streptococcus,
which are bacteria that can live in your mouth and nasal passages. The
infection may be spread through contact with droplets from an infected person’s
sneeze or cough. This means that your child can contract scarlet fever if they
touch their mouth, nose, or eyes after touching something that has droplets
from an infected person on it. They may also get scarlet fever if you drink
from the same glass or eat from the same plate as an infected person.
Are the Symptoms of Scarlet Fever?
A rash is the most common sign of scarlet fever. It usually looks
like a sunburn and feels like sandpaper. It typically begins on the chest and
stomach and then spreads to the rest of your body. The folds of skin around the
armpits, elbows, and knees can also become a deeper red than the surrounding
rash. The rash typically lasts between two and seven days. After the rash has
subsided, the affected skin will peel along with the skin on the tips of the
fingers and toes.
Other common symptoms of scarlet fever include:
- a fever above 101°F
- a red, sore throat with white and yellow patches
- swollen tonsils
- a flushed face
- nausea and vomiting
- swollen glands in the back of the neck
- a pale area of skin around the lips
- a white tongue with red dots on the surface,
which is called strawberry tongue
Is Scarlet Fever Diagnosed?
Your child’s doctor will first perform a physical exam to check
for signs of scarlet fever. During the exam, your doctor will check the
condition of your child’s tongue, throat, and tonsils. They’ll also look for
enlarged lymph nodes and examine the appearance and texture of the rash.
If your doctor suspects your child has scarlet fever, they’ll
swab the back of their throat to collect a sample of their cells for analysis.
This is called a throat culture. The sample will then be sent to a laboratory
to determine whether the group A streptococcus bacterium is
Is Scarlet Fever Treated?
Scarlet fever is usually treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics
will kill bacteria and help the body’s immune system fight off the bacteria
causing the infection. When antibiotics are prescribed, you’ll need to make
sure your child completes the entire course of medication. This will help
prevent the infection from returning. Over-the-counter medications, such as
aspirin or ibuprofen, can be used to control the fever.
Your child’s doctor might also prescribe medicine to help ease
the pain of a sore throat. Other remedies include eating warm soup, popsicles,
or ice cream. Gargling with salt water and using a cool air humidifier can further
minimize the severity and pain of a sore throat. It’s also important to drink
plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
Your child can return to school after they’ve taken antibiotics for
at least 24 hours and they no longer have a fever.
There Complications Associated with Scarlet Fever?
In most cases, the rash and other symptoms of scarlet fever will
be gone in about two weeks. However, when it’s left untreated, scarlet fever can
cause serious complications. These can include:
These complications can usually be avoided if scarlet fever is
treated promptly with the proper medication.
Can Scarlet Fever Be Prevented?
Practicing good hygiene is the best way to prevent scarlet fever.
You should wash your hands before meals and after using the restroom and teach
your children to do the same. Always cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or
coughing to prevent the spread of germs. You should also avoid sharing drinking
glasses and utensils with others, especially when you’re in a group setting.