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Scarlet fever is a condition which develops in certain individuals who have been affected by strep throat. The illness is also referred to as scarlatina. It is identified by the formation of a bright reddish rash which affects almost all parts of the body. A majority of scarlet fever cases have additional symptoms of a high fever as well as a sore throat.

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Children between the ages of five to fifteen years are usually affected by scarlet fever. In the olden days, scarlet fever was deemed as a life-threatening childhood disease. However, the modern antibiotic treatments have made it a non-serious illness. However, it may be noted that untreated cases of scarlet fever can lead to serious complications which can affect major body organs such as the kidneys, heart, etc.

Symptoms of scarlet fever

Some of the signs and symptoms of scarlet fever are discussed below. It may be noted that these symptoms have given the disease its name.

  • Red rashes: Patients will develop a red rash which feels coarse like sandpaper and appears like a sunburn. It generally appears on the face or neck at first, and then gradually migrates to the torso, the arms, and finally the legs. The skin affected by such rashes become pale when pressure if applied on it.
  • A flushed face: The face may elicit a flushed appearance. The mouth may develop a pale ring around it.
  • Reddish lines: The skin creases which are present in different areas of the body such as the armpits, groin, knees, elbows, and neck generally turn a darker red as compared to the adjacent skin rash.
  • A strawberry-like tongue: The tongue usually appears lumpy and reddish. The surface of the tongue is typically covered with a whitish coating during the initial stages of scarlet fever.

It may be noted that the generalized redness as well as the rash on the tongue and the face, often last for about seven days. After these symptoms have decreased in intensity, the skin which had developed the rash generally tends to peel.

Patients affected by scarlet fever may also elicit the below listed additional signs and symptoms:

  • High fever which is often accompanied by chills. The fever may be as high as 101 degree Fahrenheit or 38.3 degree Celsius.
  • The affected individual may experience swallowing difficulties
  • The throat may be very red and sore, and sometimes develop yellowish or white patches
  • The glands or lymph nodes in the neck may become enlarged. They are also very sensitive to touch.
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting or nausea

It is important to note that untreated cases of scarlet fever can result in the spread of bacteria to different parts of the body, including the sinuses, tonsils, skin, middle ear, and blood. In rare cases, scarlet fever can progress to the development of rheumatic fever. It is a very serious disease which can affect the heart, the nervous system, joints, and skin.

Causes of scarlet fever

The species of bacteria which is responsible for causing strep throat, is also the causative agent of scarlet fever. In people affected by scarlet fever, the bacteria secrete a toxin which is what causes the reddish tongue and rashes.

The bacterial infection spreads from an affected person to another individual via droplets which get expelled into the air, when a patient sneezes or coughs. It may be noted that the incubation period for scarlet fever is 2 to 4 days. Thus, it may take a healthy individual to show symptoms of scarlet fever, 2 to four days after getting exposed to the bacteria.

Is scarlet fever contagious ?

Scarlet fever is contagious. The germs which cause scarlet fever are more likely to spread to people who are in close contact with the affected person, such as classmates and family. Also, children in the age group of 5 to 15 years are at greater risk to developing scarlet fever as compared to individuals who are younger or older.

Treatment of scarlet fever

All cases of scarlet fever have to be treated by a doctor. Scarlet fever can be treated with prescription antibiotics. It is important for the patient to complete the entire course of antibiotics. In case the treatment guidelines are not fully followed, then the infection is not eliminated completely, which in turn increases the vulnerability of the patient to developing serious complications. Hence, parents of affected children must pay extra attention and ensure that the child takes the recommended antibiotic dosage.

The affected child can resume normal activity and even attend school, after he/she has been on antibiotic treatment for a minimum of 24 hours, and when the high fever has been successfully resolved.

The spread of scarlet fever infection can be easily prevented by following a few basic steps. Parents of affected children must make sure that he/she follows the below listed basic guidelines.

  • Avoid sharing food or utensils
  • Always wash the hands and keep them clean
  • Cover the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing

Scarlet Fever Pictures

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