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Dr Chris Steele


Scarlet Fever

What is scarlet fever?
Basically, scarlet fever (also known as scarlatina) is a sore throat with a widespread red rash.

Before the rash the child has:

A sore throat

Infected tonsils

Furred tongue with tiny red spots

A high temperature

Vomiting and sometimes, tummy pains

The rash:
The rash of scarlet fever spreads all over the body but is often absent from around the mouth. This white area is known as 'circumoral pallor'.

Within three days the 'lobster red' rash of scarlet fever appears first on the chest and back, spreading next to the rest of the body. It lasts for 4 - 5 days. The skin often flakes after the rash has gone.

These are rare but sometimes nephritis (kidney inflammation) or rheumatic fever (inflammation of the joints and heart valves) occurs.

Who gets scarlet fever?
Anyone can get this condition, but it is rare nowadays and seldom serious. What causes scarlet fever? This disease is caused by a bacterium called streptococcus that causes sore throats and tonsillitis. A toxin is produced by this bacterium which causes the rash and complications of scarlet fever. Antibiotics have now reduced this condition to a rare and mild disease.

Can you prevent scarlet fever? This disease is not one to be feared and so there is no vaccine.

How should you treat scarlet fever?

  • Keep your child at home
  • Bed rest is not essential
  • Keep temperature down
  • You should check:
    • Has child got a fever?
    • Has child got swollen red tonsils?
    • Has child got furred tongue?
    • If YES to any of the above call your G.P.

Your G.P.
Will prescribe antibiotics such as penicillin or erythromycin.