About Scarlet Fever

Key points

  • Scarlet fever is an infection that causes a sore throat and a rash.
  • Healthcare providers can do a quick test to see if it's scarlet fever.
  • Antibiotics can help people with scarlet fever feel better faster.
A doctor examines a young girl’s throat using a tongue suppressor. Smiling mother in background.

What it is

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection.

Did you know?‎

Scarlet fever is also called scarlatina.

Signs and symptoms

It usually takes 2 to 5 days for someone exposed to the bacteria to begin having symptoms.

Symptoms usually include:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Sore throat

Complications after having scarlet fever are not common but can occur.

Risk factors

Anyone can get scarlet fever, but some factors can increase the risk of getting this infection.


Scarlet fever, like strep throat, is more common in children than adults.

  • Most common: Children 5 through 15 years old
  • Rare: Children younger than 3 years old

Close contact

Close contact with another person with scarlet fever is the most common risk factor for illness. For example, if someone has scarlet fever, the bacteria often spread to other people in their household.

Contact with children: Parents of school-age children and adults who are often in contact with children are at increased risk.

Crowded settings can increase the risk of getting a group A strep infection. These settings include:

  • Daycare centers and schools
  • Detention or correctional facilities
  • Homeless shelters
  • Military training facilities


Group A Streptococcus (group A strep bacteria) cause scarlet fever and are contagious.


There are things people can do to protect themselves and others from group A strep infections, including scarlet fever.

Testing and diagnosis

If a healthcare provider suspects scarlet fever, there are 2 types of tests they can use.

Treatment and recovery

Healthcare providers treat strep throat with antibiotics. Learn what to do if you test positive for scarlet fever.