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There are many diseases that affect children, but because the symptoms between them are quite common, it is somewhat difficult to identify. However, through our How to Spot Series, we aim to highlight common diseases and infections that affect children in an attempt to help parents identify them as soon as possible.
Today, we’ll be discussing an illness that used to be quite serious but has become easily treated over the past decades: Scarlet fever. We’ll help you get familiar with the causes, symptoms, and treatment necessary for scarlet fever to avoid any form of panic when it occurs.
What is scarlet fever?
Scarlet fever is a bacterial illness that is most common among children aged 5-15 years old. Also known as scarlatina, scarlet fever is identified by a rash that covers most of the body. It usually occurs in children who also have strep throat or strep skin conditions.
Symptoms of scarlet fever:
The first signs of scarlet fever include:
- High fever, usually above 38.3°C
- Sore throat
- Swollen neck and glands
After a few days, more symptoms of scarlet fever will start to appear. These will include:
- Red rash that starts on the face or neck and spreads to the trunk, arms, and legs. It usually feels like sandpaper and when pressure is applied to the rash, the skin will turn pale
- Red fold in the armpits, elbows, knees, and the neck known as Pastia’s lines
- Strawberry tongue or white tongue with red dots
- Flushed face with a pale ring around the mouth
- Red sore throat with white or yellow patches
- Shivering and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach ache
- Difficulty swallowing
Causes of scarlet fever:
Scarlet fever is caused by a bacteria known as Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria or group A Streptococcus. This is a bacteria that lives in the mouth and nasal passage in humans. It is known to produce a toxin or sort of poison that causes a rash all over the body.
The infection spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The incubation period is usually two to four days.
Treatment of scarlet fever:
Because scarlet fever is caused by bacteria, it is treated with antibiotics. If your child has the above symptoms, you are required to visit a doctor. Once they’ve confirmed that your child has scarlet fever, they will prescribe antibiotics to help the body’s immune system fight off the bacteria causing the infection.
You can also get over-the-counter medication to help ease the symptoms of fever and pain such as Tylenol or acetaminophen or ibuprofen (Advil). Once your child has started the antibiotic and no longer has a fever, they can go back to school.
Prevention of scarlet fever:
While there is no specific way to prevent scarlet fever in terms of vaccines, there are a few precautions that can be taken:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water.
- Avoid sharing cutlery or food and drinks.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing to prevent germs from spreading.