What is scarlet fever?

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Scarlet fever or scarlatina is characterized as a pink-reddish, blotchy rash. It is prevalent among young children, but can affect individuals of any age.

The condition is not usually serious and can be managed with antibiotics prescribed by the doctor. Once an individual acquires the condition, he/she is unlikely to acquire it again.

Always bear in mind that scarlet fever is highly contagious. It can spread via tiny droplets when an infected individual sneezes and coughs. One can become infected if these droplets enter the nose, mouth or eyes. This can occur by direct exposure to an infected individual or touching objects or surfaces with droplets on it.

The rash generally manifests on the chest or abdomen before it spreads to other parts of the body.


The indications of scarlet fever arise in a week of being infected. The early indications include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever of 38.3 degrees C or higher
  • Headache
  • Feeling of being sick
  • Swollen glands in the neck

In most cases, a rash on the body might follow along with a red or white tongue.

The rash generally manifests on the chest or abdomen before it spreads to other parts of the body. It is described as pinkish-red blotches that might form together. It has a sandpaper-like texture and appears bright red in the body folds such as the elbows or armpits. If glass is pressed against the rash, it turns white.

Take note that the rash does not typically spread to the face, but the cheeks might turn bright red which is like sunburn while the area around the mouth remains pale.

Oftentimes, a whitish coating might form on the tongue. This starts to peel off after a few days, leaving the tongue reddened and swollen. This is commonly called as “strawberry tongue”.

Management of scarlet fever

The doctor might prescribe oral antibiotics to be taken for 5-10 days. The child is expected to feel better after 1-2 days, but the prescribed course must be finished.

While under antibiotics, the following must be observed:

  • Adequate rest and increased intake of fluids
  • Provide medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol if uncomfortable or fever is present

Scarlet fever generally settles in a week, but the skin might peel for a few weeks after the other symptoms have subsided.

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