Scarlet fever is a seasonal infection that is common at this time of the year. According to Public Health England 9,887 cases have been reported since mid September 2018. This is down on previous years, however is still a high enough number to advise parents to be aware of the symptoms.
What is Scarlet Fever?
Scarlet fever is a highly contagious infection that mostly affects young children (most commonly between 2-8). Adults can be affected, but it is rare. It is caused by the group A streptococcus pyogenes bacteria which are found on the skin and in the throat. Scarlet fever can be spread by breathing in bacteria in airborne droplets from a persons coughs or sneezes, sharing contaminated fabrics such as towels or bedding or sharing cutlery. It can also be spread by touching the skin of someone with Impetigo (a skin infection caused by group A Streptococcus)
What should I look for?
Usually the first symptom of Scarlet fever is a sore throat and flu like symptoms, followed by a high temperature (38.3C or above) and swollen lymph nodes (lumps either side of the neck)
A few days after infection has set in a characteristic pink rash appears, it usually starts on the chest and stomach and spreads from there. It doesn't usually affect the face, though the face will look flushed from the fever.
The rash is rough to touch and looks a bit like sunburn.
A white coating appears on the tongue (strawberry tongue) it then peels and leaves the tongue red and swollen.
What should you do?
Firstly, Don't panic, Scarlet Fever is much less serious than it used to be thanks to the availability of antibiotics.
With treatment it is unlikely complications will develop however there is a slight chance infection can spread and cause a more serious infection such as an ear infection, sinus infection or pneumonia. People who develop scarlet fever following an impetigo infection are more likely to develop complications.
In extremely rare cases when left untreated Scarlet Fever can cause, blood poisoning, rheumatic fever or meningitis.
You should go back to your GP if the infection hasn't cleared up 1 week after starting treatment.
Or if the child becomes ill again after Scarlet fever has cleared up.