What is Scarlet Fever?
Scarlet fever is an infection of the throat which is caused by group A streptococci bacteria.
This group of bacteria can further cause a range of other medical conditions, including throat infections and tonsillitis, skin infections (impetigo), wound infections, and acute rheumatic fever.
The disease is most commonly found in children or adults with a strep throat infection or tonsillitis, followed by the development of a skin rash. It is not very contagious and the infection is easily treated with antibiotics. Most of the children recover fully within a week or so. The amount of deaths from scarlet fever is now very rare.
How do you get scarlet fever?
The bacteria can be easily found in the nose or throat of infected people and can spread to other people by:
- sneezing or coughing (by breathing in droplets containing the bacteria)
- close contact with an infected person, where bacteria may be transferred by kissing or on hands
- contact with contaminated surfaces
- Using the same eating items when sharing food or drink with an infected person.
Who is most at risk of Scarlet Fever?
Anyone can get infected with group A streptococci, but scarlet fever is more likely to happen in young and primary school-aged children.
People living in the same house or coming into close contact with an infected person who is coughing or sneezing are at huge amount of risk.
Signs and symptoms of Scarlet Fever
Signs and symptoms may appear around 1 to 3 days after exposure to an infectious person.
- Sore throat, fever and swollen tonsils and neck glands are the first symptoms of this disease.
- A fine red (scarlet) rash develops 12 to 48 hours after symptoms begin. It is usually seen on the trunk & limbs and it looks like sunburn and feels like sandpaper. The rash lasts 2 to 5 days.
- During recovery, the skin may peel off the fingers and toes.
- The tongue becomes very red. Other common symptoms can include headaches, nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting, not feeling hungry, and feeling generally unwell.
Infected children should be kept away from school until they are well, and at least 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment.
Treatment of scarlet fever
The treatment of scarlet fever involves of a course of antibiotics (generally penicillin) to kill the bacteria and prevent serious complications that can sometimes occur, including heart (rheumatic fever) and kidney disease.
It is important to take all of the antibiotics your doctor prescribes.