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Scarlet Fever Facts

Posted 03/04/2020

• Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria that results in a rash and fever.
• The incubation period for scarlet fever is about 12 hours to seven days.
• Risk factors for scarlet fever include overcrowding, especially with children age 5 to 15 years old and the communal use of utensils, towels, or other substances.
• The contagious period for scarlet fever ranges from about 12 hours after exposure to the bacteria, even if the individual shows no symptoms, and during the acute phase when the person has a rash and fever; it ends after the fever has gone away for at least 12 hours.
• The signs and symptoms of scarlet fever include fever of 101 F or higher, a sandpaper-like rash, strawberry-like tongue texture, and other features that are relatively nonspecific such as nausea, vomiting, headache, swollen glands, and body aches.
• The treatment for scarlet fever is antibiotics that are effective against the infecting streptococci.
• Complications of scarlet fever can include rheumatic fever and kidney problems; other serious problems can occur on rare occasions, including death.
• The prognosis of scarlet fever, if treated early and effectively, is very good; such treatment usually prevents complications.
• It’s possible to reduce or prevent the chance of getting scarlet fever by good hand-washing techniques and by not using others utensils, towels, or other personal grooming products. There is no vaccine for humans against scarlet fever.

What is scarlet fever?

Scarlet fever or scarlatina, is a bacterial infection caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. This illness usually occurs in a few people (about 10%) who have strep throat and occasionally streptococcal skin or even wound infections. Scarlet fever symptoms and signs may include a reddish sore throat, a fever (101 F or above), and a red rash with a sandpaper-like texture, and a tongue that resembles a “strawberry” (red with small bumps). Some patients will have whitish coating on the tongue or the throat and may have swollen glands, headache, nausea, vomiting, and/or body aches. The classic description of the rash of scarlet fever has been described as “goose bumps on a sunburned skin.”

Treatment of Scarlet Fever

A physical exam by a medical professional and a throat swab are cultured to determine if a person has scarlet fever. The treatment for scarlet fever is antibiotics. Usually about 10 days of an oral penicillin medication (for example, amoxicillin) can be an effective early treatment.

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