Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection caused by group A Streptococcus or “group A strep.” The classic symptoms of the disease are a sore throat and a certain type of red rash that feels rough, like sandpaper. Although anyone can get scarlet fever, it is most common in children ages 5 through 15 years old. It is usually a mild illness, but people with scarlet fever need antibiotics to prevent rare but serious health problems. Antibiotics also help someone with scarlet fever feel better sooner and protect others from getting sick.
- Although anyone can get scarlet fever, it is most common in children ages 5 through 15 years old.
- Doctors can test for scarlet fever with a quick strep test.
- Doctors treat scarlet fever with antibiotics.
- Common symptoms of scarlet fever include sore throat, fever (101° F or above), and a red rash with a sandpaper feel.
- Protect yourself and others by washing your hands often and not sharing eating utensils.
Illness usually begins with a fever and sore throat. There also may be chills, vomiting, or abdominal pain. The tongue may have a whitish coating, appear swollen, or look red and bumpy. Small, flat red blotches usually appear first on the neck, underarm, or groin before spreading over the body. Later, the rash starts to feel like sandpaper.
Long-term health problems are rare. They can include rheumatic fever, kidney disease, and arthritis. Other health problems that can occur after scarlet fever include ear, skin, throat, sinus, or lung infections. Treatment with antibiotics can prevent most of these health problems.
The best way to keep from getting or spreading the bacteria that cause scarlet fever is to wash your hands often. Also avoid sharing eating utensils, plates, and glasses. Children with scarlet fever should stay home from school or daycare until they no longer have a fever and have taken antibiotics for at least 12 hours.
- Wash your hands often. It is especially important for anyone with a sore throat to wash his or her hands often. Group A strep bacteria spread through contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. If you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes after touching something that has these droplets on it, you may become ill.
- Wash glasses, utensils, and plates after someone who is sick uses them. These items are safe for others to use once washed.
- Take antibiotics exactly as the doctor says to. Treatment with antibiotics can prevent most long-term health problems from scarlet fever.
- Stay home if infected. People with scarlet fever should stay home from work, school, or daycare until they no longer have a fever and have taken antibiotics for at least 12 hours.