Scarlet fever

Scarlet Fever is very contagious and usually affects young children.  It usually lasts for around a week and you are contagious from up to 7 days before the symptoms appear until 24 hours after the first dose of antibiotics or 2 weeks after symptoms appear.  The treatment is a course of antibiotics.

The symptoms of Scarlet Fever

The first signs of scarlet fever are:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • a high fever of 38C
  • swollen neck glands

Usually the rash appears a few days after.

The rash is usually pink-red and feels rough, like sandpaper.  It can resemble sunburn and starts on the chest and stomach.

The tongue develops a white coating which then peels, causing it to be red and swollen.  This is called “strawberry tongue”.

The cheeks can be flushed although the rash isn’t the same as the one on the chest.

Scarlet fever is rare in adults but the symptoms are the same.

Seeing a GP with scarlet fever

You should speak to your GP if you or your child:

  • has the symptoms of scarlet fever
  • doesn’t improve within a week (especially if your child has recently had chickenpox)
  • becomes unwell again a few weeks after recovering from scarlet fever.

Due to the infectious nature of scarlet fever, your GP may suggest a phone consultation.

What to expect at an appointment

Scarlet fever can be diagnosed by a visual assessment although they may want to arrange a blood test or take a swab sample from the back of the throat.

How to treat scarlet fever

Antibiotics help to make someone to feel better more quickly and reduce the risk of complications.

Ensure you:

  • Drink cool fluids
  • Eat soft foods
  • Take paracetamol to bring down a temperature
  • Use calamine lotion or antihistamine tablets to stop itching

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