Scarlet Fever- symptoms, causes & treatment

Scarlet Fever- symptoms, causes & treatment

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Scarlet Fever- symptoms, causes & treatment

What is Scarlet Fever?

  • Scarlet Fever was once a very common illness, and used to be a major cause of death in childhood.
  • With improvements in living conditions and hygiene, as well as the availability of antibiotics, it’s now much less frequent and is easily treatable if it occurs.
  • However, cases still crop up, and there can be outbreaks in schools- so it’s worth being aware of the symptoms, particularly as the delayed complications of untreated scarlet fever can be serious.

Who gets Scarlet Fever?

  • Scarlet Fever usually occurs in children younger than 10 years old, peaking around the age of 4.
  • It’s unusual for adults to get it

What causes Scarlet Fever?

  • Scarlet Fever is caused by bacteria known as Group A Streptococcus, often referred to as “Strep” for short.
  • Streptococcal bacteria located in the throat release a toxin into the bloodstream, and that leads to the characteristic rash.

 

 

Learn more about online medical certificates

scarlet fever

What are the symptoms of Scarlet Fever?

  • Fever (high temperature)
  • Sore throat
  • A red rash on the face, chest and abdomen which tends to have a rough “sandpapery” feel to it (not everyone gets the rash- only those who are sensitive to the Strep toxin mentioned above).
  • Some people experience peeling of their skin after the initial red rash has faded (this looks like when your skin peels following sunburn).
  • A prominent red appearance of the tongue, with small white spots. This is referred to as “strawberry tongue”. In some cases the tongue may become swollen after a few days.

 

How is scarlet fever diagnosed?

  • Usually a doctor will recognise the typical symptoms
  • Sometimes a throat swab will be taken to check for Streptococcal infection in the throat
  • A blood test can also help to confirm the diagnosis

How do you get Scarlet Fever?

  • Coughs and sneezes can spread the bacteria, as can contact with surfaces that an infected person has touched- e.g. towels, baths, clothes or bedclothes.
  • Symptoms take 2-4 days to develop following exposure.
  • Children with scarlet fever should avoid school or childcare for 24 hours after starting antibiotics.
  • Once you get scarlet fever, you develop immunity, so you’re unlikely to get it more than once. However, exposure to a different strain of the bacteria could lead to a recurrence.
  • There is no evidence that scarlet fever is harmful in pregnancy

What is the treatment for scarlet fever?

  • A form of penicillin called “phenoxymethylpenicillin” is the usual treatment for scarlet fever, and should be taken for 10 days.
  • If you’re allergic to penicillin, your doctor will recommend a different antibiotic, such as Erythromycin.
  • Penicillin is the best antibiotic for this infection, so if you are not sure whether you truly have an allergy to Penicillin, speak to your doctor.
  • To prevent complications, it’s important that the full course of antibiotics is taken, even if symptoms improve after the first few doses.
  • Scarlet fever generally gets better within a week, even if no antibiotics are taken- but antibiotics are still advised, as they prevent later complications.
  • Plenty of fluids are advised, and Paracetamol can be taken as required for pain and fever.
gastro

What is “scarlatina”?

 Scarlatina is just a term sometimes used by people to refer to scarlet fever if the symptoms are mild- but it is the same illness, and should be treated the same way.

What are the complications of scarlet fever?

Most people do not get complications, particularly if antibiotics are taken. Early complications of scarlet fever can include:

  • Ear infection
  • Sinus infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Meningitis
  • Throat abscess

There can be delayed complications if antibiotics are not taken- some of these can be serious, and may only arise years later:

  • Glomerulonephritis- this is an inflammatory condition of the kidneys, and may occur years later. It can be serious, and may lead to high blood pressure and kidney failure.
  • Rheumatic Fever- this is a serious condition affecting the heart, and like glomerulonephritis, may occur many years after the original infection.

Taking the full course of antibiotics for scarlet fever helps to prevent these complications.

If you have any concerns about Scarlet Fever, speak to your doctor.

Learn more about online medical certificates

Anaphylaxis- why does it happen & how is it treated?

By | April 17th, 2018|Categories: Allergies & Asthma|

Anaphylaxis- what causes it & how is it treated? What is anaphylaxis? Anaphylaxis is a severe life-threatening allergy. Normally, the immune system defends the body against threats such as bacteria and viruses. An [...]

Comments Off on Anaphylaxis- why does it happen & how is it treated?

Bedwetting- what causes it and what’s the treatment?

By | April 14th, 2018|Categories: Children & Babies, Kidney & Bladder Health|

Bedwetting- what causes nocturnal enuresis & how is it treated? What is enuresis? Enuresis (or nocturnal enuresis) is more commonly known as bedwetting.  It’s a problem for lots of children, and can have [...]

Comments Off on Bedwetting- what causes it and what’s the treatment?

Sweating too much- what causes it and when is it serious?

By | April 9th, 2018|Categories: Skin & hair conditions, Our Blog, Embarrassing health problems|

Sweating too much- what causes it and when is it serious? Sweating is the body’s natural way of cooling down- sweat evaporates from the skin and allows body temperature to drop. Short term [...]

Comments Off on Sweating too much- what causes it and when is it serious?

Itchy bottom and unsettled sleep?- it could be threadworms

By | April 2nd, 2018|Categories: Common infections, Children & Babies|

Threadworms- symptoms & treatment What are thread worms? Threadworms (also known as pinworms) are small white worms that infect the human intestine. Infestation with threadworms is a common problem, particularly in younger children, [...]

Comments Off on Itchy bottom and unsettled sleep?- it could be threadworms

About the Author:

Aifric Boylan
Originally from Ireland, Dr Boylan is an experienced GP based in Melbourne. She is also committed to innovation in the area of online medicine and health technology. Aifric is a keen distance runner, and plays the violin, but not at the same time…

9.3 out of 10
reviewed by Trustpilot