What is Scarlet Fever?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Mar 23, 2013

Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever is an infectious disease caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria that most commonly affects children aged between the age group of 4—8 years.


  • The time duration between being infected and having the symptoms is 1—2 days. One of the first symptoms of scarlet fever is a strep infection of the throat, also called strep pharyngitis or strep skin infection along with fever.
  • This is followed by sandpapery rash that usually appears on the chest and neck and gradually spreads all over the body. The texture of the rash is important to confirm the diagnosis.
  • The rash lasts for a week and so does the fever.
  • When the rash fades, one may see the skin peeling off around the fingertips, groin area and toes.
  • Bright red colour in the creases of the groin and underarm.
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen, red tongue
  • Pale area around the mouth
  • White strawberry tongue i.e. a white coating with red dots on the surface of the tongue
  • Vomiting.


  • One of the first ways in which the doctor will diagnose your medical problem is by looking at the appearance of the scarlet rash.
  • After closely examining the rashes, the doctor will check for the symptoms of the disease.
  • To confirm the diagnosis of a strep infection, the doctor will take a swab of throat secretions. If there is no possibility of a sore throat, then the doctor will focus on other sources of strep infection like impetigo.


Mild cases of scarlet fever go away in about a week without treatment. You are, however, advised to get treatment to ensure that you recover quickly and to avoid any complications that are likely to crop up in some people. You must seek medical attention whenever you or someone else in the family has rashes on the skin accompanied by fever.

According to National Health Services scarlet fever may be treated with:

Antibiotics: a child with scarlet fever is given a 10-day course of antibiotics. The antibiotic most commonly taken is usually penicillin and that too orally. The antibiotic erythromycin may be used in those who are allergic to penicillin.

Your doctor will advise you to stay at home after the starting of the treatment. The symptoms subside when one takes the whole course of treatment. Some other treatments that are used to treat scarlet fever include:

  • Drinking plenty of water, especially if the appetite has taken a nose dive
  • Keeping the room in which the patient is lying cool
  • Using calamine lotion to relieve itching of the rash
  • Taking paracetamol to relieve pains and aches and to bring the temperature down.


If the patient is given proper treatment, he/she is likely to recover from scarlet fever within two weeks without any long-term scarring. However, some people suffering from the disease may have complications such as:

  • Acute rheumatic fever
  • Bone or joint problems
  • Ear infection
  • Inflammation of a gland
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Pneumonia
  • Meningitis
  • Sinusitis


Considering that scarlet fever is an infectious disease, the preventive strategies for the disease remain the same as any other infectious disease. To keep your child healthy and prevent the likelihood of scarlet fever, make him/her follow the following healthy habits:

  • Regular washing of hands: teach your child how to wash his/her hands thoroughly with warm soapy water. Make sure he/she washes hands thoroughly especially when he/she has a sore throat.
  • Do not share utensils or food: tell your child to not share food or his/her dining utensils with other people.
  • Cover the nose and mouth: if your child is suffering from the disease, he/she must cover his/her mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing to prevent the spread of germs.

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