Scarlet fever is an infection that develops among those with strep throat. It is characterized by a bright, reddish rash on the back that can be accompanied by sore throat and high fever. The bacteria that causes scarlet fever is also the one responsible for causing strep throat, specifically the group A streptococcus bacteria.
The condition generally affects children between 5-15 years of age. At the present, it is a rare condition but was once a common and serious childhood ailment. Antibiotics drastically lowered the severity of the symptoms and its prevalence.
A rash is the usual indication of scarlet fever in both children and adults. It looks the same as a sunburn with a sandpaper-like texture.
The rash generally starts on the chest and stomach and later spreads to the entire body. The skin folds around the elbows, armpits and knees turn deep red than the surrounding rash. In most cases, the rash lasts between 2-7 days. Once it has settled, the affected skin starts to peel as well as the skin on the tips of the toes and fingers.
Other indications that might arise include:
- Reddened streaks or lines around the elbows, armpits and knees
- Fever higher than 101 degrees F
- Flushed face
- Strawberry tongue or white tongue with red-colored dots on the surface
- Swollen tonsils
- Sore, reddened throat with yellow and white patches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pale skin around the lips
- Swollen glands in the back part of the neck
Scarlet fever is generally treated using antibiotics. These medications eliminate the bacteria and help the immune system fight the bacteria responsible for the infection.
The complete course of antibiotics should be completed to prevent it from returning. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin can be given to control the fever.
The doctor might also prescribe pain medications to reduce the pain of sore throat. Other measures that can be used include:
- Provide ice cream, ice pops or warm soup
- Gargle using salt water
- Use a cool air humidifier
- Increase the intake of water
The child can return to school after taking antibiotics for at least 24 hours and if there is no fever.