Scarlet fever is a condition caused by Streptococcus A bacteria. It affects people with recent strep throat infection or school sores that are caused by the same bacteria.
- Scarlet fever is a condition caused by Streptococcus A bacteria. It affects mostly children under the age of 10; however, anyone can get it.
- Symptoms usually start suddenly with a fever and sore throat, then a pink rash that starts from the chest and tummy and spreads across the whole body.
- Scarlet fever can be diagnosed with a throat swab or a blood test.
- It is treated with antibiotics.
- Careful handwashing is key to preventing the spread of scarlet fever.
What are the symptoms of scarlet fever?
Symptoms of scarlet fever start 1–3 days after contact with the bacteria. It usually starts with a flu-like illness with symptoms such as fever and sore throat. Other common symptoms include:
- tiny pink spots or rash that start on the chest and tummy, and then spread over the whole body
- nausea and vomiting
- peeling of the skin on fingertips and toes
- swollen neck glands
- white coating with red spots on the tongue, known as "strawberry tongue"
- tummy pain
- flushed cheeks.
Who is most at risk of scarlet fever?
Scarlet fever mostly affects children, especially those aged under 10 years old. Adults can also get it, although that is rare.
How is scarlet fever diagnosed?
Your doctor will take a history and do a physical examination. Scarlet fever can be diagnosed through:
- a blood test to test for the presence of Streptococcus A antibodies
- a throat swab to test for the presence of Streptococcus A bacteria.
How is scarlet fever treated?
See your doctor if you think you or your child may have scarlet fever. Early treatment can prevent the illness from getting severe.
Antibiotics are the treatment for scarlet fever. If your illness is mild, you will be given oral antibiotics. If severe, you will need to go to hospital for antibiotics through your vein and for closer monitoring.
There is no vaccine available to prevent scarlet fever.
How is scarlet fever spread?
Scarlet fever can be spread by:
- breathing in air droplets coughed or sneezed by a person with scarlet fever
- touching contaminated surfaces, hands or objects used by a person with scarlet fever.
How can I prevent the spread of scarlet fever?
Careful handwashing is key to preventing the spread of scarlet fever. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, toothbrushes or utensils with an infected person.