Scarlet fever is an infection of the throat or tonsils caused by the streptococcus bacterium which is the same germ that causes Strep throat. However the scarlet fever bacterium also produces a toxin that causes the other symptoms not usually seen with a Strep throat. As with Strep throat, this infection is seen mostly in school age children and much less frequently in children less than 3 years of age.
What are the symptoms of scarlet fever?
Children with it look quite sick and may have the following symptoms:
- Sore throat
- High fever
- Swollen neck glands in the neck
- Headache and/or abdominal pain
- A characteristic rash
The scarlet fever rash:
The symptoms described above can be seen on other types of infections as well. But it is what distinguishes this illness from others. The rash usually appears several days after the sore throat starting on the child’s neck and face, and spreads down to the chest and back. The rash feels rough, just like sandpaper. The areas affected by the rash will turn white when you press on them. One feature very characteristic for the scarlet fever rash is that it is most dense or concentrated around the armpit and groin areas.
How is scarlet fever confirmed?
The doctor usually can make the diagnosis by the characteristic rash and by looking in the child’s throat. The tonsils and the back of the throat may be covered with a whitish coating or appear red and swollen. The tongue may have a white coating or have red spots(called a strawberry tongue). Also, the area around the mouth may be pale. The diagnosis is confirmed by obtaining obtain sample of the fluids from your child’s throat with a cotton swab, for a throat culture. This test will identify the Streptococcus bacteria.
How is scarlet fever treated?
For confirmed scarlet fever infection, antibiotics will be prescribed. rid of the bacteria. You should give the medicine on time and for as many days as the doctor directs. If you skip doses or stop the medicine too soon, the infection may return. It usually takes about 24-48 hours for the fever to fall and the child to start feeling better .in the meantime make sour eths chills is drinking well. Also during this time, acetaminophen can be given for fever. If your child worsens or the fever persists despite 48 hours of antibiotics contact your doctor.
Is scarlet fever contagious?
Scarlet fever as Strep throat infections are considered contagious, They spread form one person to another through airborne droplets mostly in a crowded or close contact areas schools and day cares. A child is considered not to be contagious after a full 24 hours of antibiotics.
Is scarlet fever dangerous?
As with Strep throat the infection can spread into the ears, sinuses and the area behind the tonsils. Other complications of an untreated streptococcal throat infection can appear several weeks after the infection. These are referred to as non-supporitive(infectious) complications which are kidney inflammation(glomerulonephritis) and heart damage(Acute rheumatic fever). It is for these reasons that it is necessary to complete the whole prescribed course of the antibiotics even if the child starts to feel better. Fortunately with treatment, most children recover fully without any complications.
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Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.