What is Scarlet Fever?
Scarlet fever is a bacterial throat infection caused by streptococcus bacteria. It most commonly occurs in children and has become less prevalent than it once was however incidence has recently began to increase. It is most common in children under the age of 10. The bacterium that causes scarlet fever is infectious and is spread by coughing, sneezing and breathing out germs. With treatment, a full recovery is usual.
What are the causes for Scarlet Fever?
Scarlet fever is most commonly caused by a strain of bacteria called group A streptococcus. Once infected it is possible for this bacteria to release toxins into the blood from the infected throat. This causes the symptoms of scarlet fever.
What are the symptoms of Scarlet Fever?
A raised temperature and a sore throat are typically the first symptoms. This is soon followed by a bright red (scarlet) rash. This rash usually appears on the neck and chest as small red spots and then spreads to other parts of the body particularly the face. It has sandpaper like feel and goes white when you press on it. The tongue may develop red spots and become pale. Other symptoms can include: vomiting, headache and feeling generally unwell. The sore throat and fever will usually last a few days. The rash will last around a week and then will gradually fade, however may recur over a few weeks.
A history of the symptoms and a characteristic rash is usually enough to diagnose scarlet fever. Sometimes a swab from the throat will be taken to be tested for streptococcus bacteria or a blood test can confirm the diagnosis.
How is Scarlet Fever treated?
A 10-day course of a penicillin antibiotic is the usual treatment for scarlet fever. It is important to finish the whole course of antibiotics even after the symptoms resolve to make sure all of the bacteria are killed. A General Practitioner can prescribe this medication. Paracetamol can be given for the symptoms of fever. It can be combined with ibuprofen if the child is still distressed. It is also important to keep the child hydrated and to prevent the child overheating by taking extra layers of clothes off.