Overview on scarlet fever

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Scarlet fever is basically an infection triggered by group A streptococcus which is the same bacteria responsible for strep throat. The condition is simply strep throat that is accompanied by a rash. It typically occurs among children below 18 years old.

What are the indications of scarlet fever?

The reddened rash that feels similar to sandpaper usually begins on the chest and spreads to the legs and arms. This rash can last between 2-7 days and once it vanishes, the skin on the toes and fingers start to peel.

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • “Strawberry tongue” characterized by reddened, swollen lumps on the tongue with a white coating
  • Pinkish or reddish color of the face with a pale area surrounding the lips

Other uncommon symptoms of scarlet fever might include a headache, stomach upset or vomiting and body aches.

Scarlet fever
The reddened rash that feels similar to sandpaper usually begins on the chest and spreads to the legs and arms.

How is the condition diagnosed?

Scarlet fever is diagnosed similarly as strep throat. A throat swab is taken and either a culture or rapid test is carried out to check if the streptococcus bacteria is present. Take note that a rapid test might provide a positive result in 5-10 minutes but a culture might take up to 2 days to get the results. Oftentimes, both tests are carried out since the rapid test might be unreliable.


It is important to note that scarlet fever should be managed using antibiotics to eliminate the streptococcus bacteria responsible for the infection. In case a child has been analyzed with scarlet fever, he/she must be given antibiotics for at least 24 hours before going back to school to ensure that he/she is no longer contagious.

Fever-reducing medications can also be given to make the child comfortable as well as reduce the pain of the sore throat. Even cold foods such as popsicles and ice cream can provide a soothing effect. Warm liquids such as soup can be comforting as well. Additionally, a cool mist humidifier can be used while the child is sleeping to keep the nose and throat moist as well as minimize discomfort throughout the night.

In case the child has been diagnosed with scarlet fever but does not seem to improve after antibiotics were used for 2-3 days, a doctor should be consulted. Even though the rash might take some time to vanish, the fever and other symptoms must improve after antibiotics have been used.

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