Scarlet fever

Scarlatina is a rash that is usually caused by group A streptococci bacteria — the same germs that can cause a’strep throat’, skin infections (such as impetigo), wound infections and rheumatic fever. The germs that cause scarlet fever spread from person to person by droplets from the mouth or nose when someone coughs or sneezes. These droplets carry the germs and can be inhaled into the lungs.

People with scarlet fever often have a very red sore throat and swollen glands, a fever and a rash that looks like sandpaper. The rash usually starts on the neck, forehead and cheeks but can spread to the chest and arms. The rash fades in about 7 days. The tongue may also have a whitish coating and be very bumpy, a condition called strawberry tongue. Some people with scarlet fever have other symptoms, such as chills, body aches and a loss of appetite.

Scarlet Fever: Symptoms, Causes, and How to Protect Your Family

Children 5 to 15 years old are more likely than others to get scarlet fever. The germs that cause it most often spread from family members, schoolmates or child-care groups.

Prompt antibiotic treatment — usually penicillin-based medicine — makes the symptoms go away quickly and helps prevent serious complications, such as ear infections or throat abscesses. People who take antibiotics for scarlet fever are no longer contagious after 24 hours. People who don’t take antibiotics may continue to be contagious for up to three weeks. People who are immune to the disease from a previous infection are not likely to have a recurrence of the scarlet fever rash, but they may still develop other complications from the infection, such as rheumatic fever.

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