What is Scarlet Fever?
Scarlet fever is strep throat with a rash. It most commonly occurs in children between the ages of 2 and 10, but can affect all ages. It is caused by the streptococcal bacteria.
How is Scarlet Fever spread?
Scarlet fever can be passed from person to person. Strep bacteria is released into the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. The bacteria released into the air is then breathed in by others.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms usually develop about 1-7 days after being exposed to someone with strep throat or scarlet fever.
Scarlet fever is most common in children under 10 years old and begins with a fever and sore throat. Other symptoms can include vomiting, headache, chills and abdominal pain. Many children with this infection have a high fever initially, which may reach 103-104 degrees. Without treatment, the fever may last 5-7 days, but usually quickly goes down within a day of starting antibiotic therapy.
After 12-48 hours of developing symptoms, your child will then develop a red rash, which consists of very small red bumps that begin on the neck and groin and then spreads to the rest of the body. The rash has the characteristic feel of sandpaper and typically lasts five to six days. The rash is sometimes worse on the neck, elbow creases, arm pits (axilla) and groin and once the rash fades, the skin may peel. The peeling may last up to six weeks.
Although the sandpapery rash does not usually appear on the face, your child's forehead and cheeks may appear red and flushed. In addition, there is usually a pale area around the mouth. Another common finding is dark, hyper pigmented areas on the skin, especially in the skin creases.
The fever and rash is usually accompanied by a red, swollen throat and tonsils that can have a white coating of pus, swollen glands, decreased appetite and energy level. Another common finding is a red and swollen tongue. At first, the tongue usually also has a white coating on it, and with the red swollen papillae of the tongue protruding through this white coating, it gives the appearance of a strawberry tongue.
How is it treated?
Your child will need to follow up with their doctor is you suspect they have scarlet fever. A throat swab may be completed to confirm the presence of strept throat. Your doctor will then prescribe antibiotics. It is very important that your child complete the antibiotics are completed as ordered by the doctor.
How can Scarlet Fever be prevented?
It is always a good idea to avoid contact with anyone who has scarlet fever. Be sure to wash your hands often, don't share eating utensils, glasses, or toothbrushes.
How serious is Scarlet Fever?
Scarlet fever can be treated with antibiotics in most cases. There are some severe complications that can occur. They include infection of the middle ear, sinusitis, pneumonia, rheumatic fever or rheumatic heart disease. Your primary care provider should be consulted to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.
Where can I get more information?
Your family physician, school Health Office and local health department are excellent sources of information on communicable diseases.
Parents of students with communicable diseases are asked to telephone the school health office so that other students who have been exposed to the disease can be alerted. Students with diseases are not allowed to come to school while they are contagious.