Also called scarlatina, scarlet fever is a type of bacterial disease which may affect some individuals suffering from strep throat. The illness is marked by the formation of a bright red rash which is spread almost across the body. Most cases of scarlet fever occur with high fever and sore throat.
Children in the age group of 5 to 15 years are mostly affected by scarlet fever. It was once regarded as a serious disease that affected children. However, different antibiotic therapies have made it less dangerous. But, untreated cases of scarlet fever can trigger severe health complications of the kidneys, heart, and other body tissues and organs.
Symptoms of scarlet fever
Some of the common signs and symptoms of scarlet fever are listed below:
- Development of a red rash. In most cases, the rash initially forms on the neck or face and then migrates to the arms, torso, and lower limbs. Its texture is like sandpaper and it appears like a sunburn. Application of pressure on such reddish skin can cause it to become white or pale.
- The face may look like it is flushed and may feature a pale ring that circles the mouth.
- Pastia’s lines, i.e., formation of reddish lines on the skin folds occurring around the armpits, knees, groin, elbows, and neck. These lines may be of a deeper red shade than adjacent rash on skin.
- The tongue may look like a strawberry. It may be abnormally bumpy and red; in the initial stages of scarlet fever, it will typically be enclosed in a whitish coating.
- The bright red rash as well as tongue and facial redness generally persists for about 7 days. The symptoms may then subside and the affected skin areas may experience peeling.
Uncommon symptoms associated with scarlet fever include the following:
- Reddish and very sore throat with the occasional yellowish or white patches
- Fever with body temperatures of 101 F or more.
- Swallowing difficulties
- Vomiting and/or nausea
- Enlargement and tenderness of the lymph nodes in the neck
- Appetite loss
- Abdominal pain
Untreated cases of scarlet fever can trigger migration of the bacteria to organs like the tonsils, skin, lungs, blood, kidneys, and the middle ear.
In rare cases, the illness can trigger a case of rheumatic fever which is a harmful disease that affects the joints, heart, skin, and the nervous system.
Scarlet fever is caused due to infection by bacteria which is also responsible for causing strep throat. In the case of scarlet fever, this bacteria tends to secrete a specific toxin which triggers the formation of the reddish tongue and skin rash.
Is Scarlet Fever Contagious?
Scarlet fever is a contagious disease. The infection can transmit via release of bacteria-infected droplets from the nose or mouth into the air when a patient sneezes or coughs. Bacteria can also spread from one person to another due to contact with objects or surfaces touched by a patient. Another risk factor is sharing towels, handkerchiefs, bed linen, and apparels with the infected person.
The incubation period, i.e., the duration between exposure to bacteria and development of the illness, for scarlet fever is about 2 to 4 days.A patient may remain contagious for many weeks even after the rash is no longer there.
Treatment of scarlet fever
- Doctors will prescribe antibiotics for treatment of scarlet fever. Fever, if any, usually alleviates in 12 to 24 hours after the antibiotic therapy. The child can then go back to school.
- It is important for parents to ensure that the complete course of antibiotics is given to the affected child. When treatment guidelines are not followed, the infection may not be eliminated completely, thereby increasing the risk to development of complications.
Pain and discomfort associated with scarlet fever can be alleviated in the below listed ways:
- Ensure that the child drinks lots of water and other fluids. This is will help prevent dehydration as well as allow the throat to remain moist.
- Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or other medications can be used to find relief from pain and ease fever.
- Cleaning products, cigarette smoke, and other such irritants can cause throat discomfort. Hence, keep the house free of such irritants.
- A saltwater gargle may be given to children who are old enough to gargle the salty water and then spit it out. This will help alleviate throat pain.
- Children who are older than 4 years can be given lozenges which they can suck on to ease sore throat.
- Dry air at home can be eliminated by using a cool mist humidifier. It may be noted that dry air tends to exacerbate a sore throat.
- Soup and other warm liquids as well as ice pops and other cold treats can help comfort a sore throat. Also, intake of such soft foods can help overcome any swallowing problems associated with scarlet fever.
Scarlet Fever Rash – Pictures
Filed in: Conditions