Scarlet Fever – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Complications

Have you heard about scarlet fever before now? If it sounds new to you, that is possible because this condition is rare.

In this article, we will be telling you all you need to know about scarlet fever.

What is Scarlet fever?

Scarlet fever, also popularly called scarlatina, is an infection that can happen to people dealing with Strep throat.

This illness is characterized by a bright red rash on a person’s body, and this rash usually comes with a high fever and sore throat. The bacteria responsible for scarlet fever is the same bacteria responsible for strep throat.

Scarlet fever has been discovered to affect children between the ages of 5 to 15, mainly. There was the time the scarlet fever was considered a severe childhood illness; however, these days do become less dangerous.

At the early stage of the disease, antibiotics treatment can help to hasten recovery and lessen the severity of the symptoms.

The most common sign of scarlet fever is a rash both in children and in adults. The temperature usually starts with a red bulgy rash that later turns to a fine and rough texture like sandpaper.

This condition is called scarlet fever because of the Scarlet colored rash that shows up on a patient’s body. The outbreak can be noticed up to two to three days before a patient begins to feel ill, or even up to 7 days after a person feels sick.

The scarlet fever rash typically starts on the groin, neck, and underarms. It then begins to spread to the rest of the victim’s body. It is very noticeable in the folds of skin in the elbow, knees, and armpits.

About seven days after the rash has subsided, you will begin to notice the tips of the toes, fingers, and the groins peeling. This peeling can last for several days into several weeks.

Other symptoms of scarlet fever

There are other common symptoms of scarlet fever, and they include:

  • Flushed face
  • Red creases in the armpits, elbows, and knees (Pastia’s lines)
  • Red, sore throat with white or yellow patches
  • Strawberry tongue, or a white tongue with red dots on the surface
  • Chills
  • Fever above 101°F (38.3°C)
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pale skin around the lips
  • Swollen glands along the neck

Cause of scarlet fever

Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria cause scarlet fever. These bacteria are known to live in the mouth and nasal passages for a long time. The primary source of these bacteria are humans, and the bacteria can form poison or toxin, which leads to the formation of bright red rash on the skin.

Is scarlet fever contagious?

The scarlet fever infection can begin to spread as early as two to five days before a victim feels ill, and it can also spread to others through contact with droplets from a patient’s nasal secretion, saliva, cough, or sneeze.

What this means, is that any individual who comes in direct contact with infected droplets from a person dealing with scarlet fever, and then touches their own eyes, nose, or mouth can get an infection immediately.

Another way you can get scarlet fever is by eating off the same utensil or drinking off the same glass with someone who already has the infection. In some recorded cases, group A strep infections have also been discovered to spread through contaminated food.

People can also get a skin infection as a result of group A strep. The skin infection is known as cellulitis, and it can spread the bacteria to other people.

However, it is essential to note that touching the scarlet fever rash will not disseminate the bacteria to other people. This is because the outbreak is as a result of toxins and not as a result of the bacteria itself.

Risk factors for scarlet fever

As earlier mentioned, the scarlet figure is known to affect children between the ages of 5 and 15, and the only way you can contact this infection is by being direct contact with people who are already infected.

Complications associated with scarlet fever

In the majority of cases, the rash that comes with scarlet fever, as well as other symptoms of this condition, may disappear between 10 to 14 days with quick antibiotic treatment.

Nevertheless, scarlet fever has been known to cause some severe complications in a few cases. These complications can include the following:

Throat abscesses, ear infections, and pneumonia can be avoided more easily if scarlet fever is quickly treated with the right antibiotic.

Other complications that make show up are believed to be as a result of the patient’s body’s immune response through scarlet fever instead of the bacteria themselves.

Diagnosing scarlet fever

The first thing a child’s doctor would have to do when you report symptoms is to perform a physical examination to check for signs of scarlet fever.

Your child’s doctor will mainly check for symptoms in your child’s throat, tongue, and tonsils. The doctor will also look for enlarged lymph nodes and also examine the texture and appearance of the rash.

If your doctor suspects that the child is dealing with scarlet fever, they will most likely take a swab of the back of your child’s throat to get a sampling of their cells for lab analysis. This text is called a throat swab test, and it will be used to create a throat culture.

Once the doctor has collected the samples, he or she will then send it to a laboratory to find out whether there is a presence of group A streptococcus.

It is also possible for rapid throat swab tests to be performed in the doctor’s office. This other test can help to identify the presence of a group with a strep infection.

Treatment for scarlet fever

Antibiotic medications have been used for the treatment of scarlet fever for a long time. What antibiotics do to fight scarlet fever is to kill the bacteria responsible, and also aid the body’s immune system in fighting off the bacteria that cause infection.

An infected person must complete the entire course of the medications prescribed for the treatment of scarlet fever. Finishing the dosage will help to prevent complications.

You can also get some specific over-the-counter (OTC) medications for your child. An example of this medication is acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever and for the pain.

Before you give your child ibuprofen, make sure to check with your doctor to see if your child is old enough. Adults may take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to kill pains.

Aspirin is one medication people use wrongly. No one of any age should ever use it during an illness that comes with a fever because of the increased risk of developing Reye’s syndrome.

Your child’s doctor will most likely prescribe other medications that will help to ease the pain of a sore throat. Some other remedies, which your child will undoubtedly prefer to include eating warm soup, ice pops, or ice cream.

Using a cool air humidifier or gargling with salt water can also help to decrease the severity and pain of a sore throat. It is also vital that your child drinks enough clean water to prevent dehydration.

If your child has had to skip school because of scarlet fever, you can have them return after they have taken antibiotics for at least a day and do not have an illness any longer.

At present, there is no vaccine for group A strep or scarlet fever, although there are many potential vaccines in clinical development.

How to prevent scarlet fever?

It is very possible to prevent scarlet fever, and the most effective preventive measure is good hygiene. Here are a few prevention tips that you would find very helpful, and that you can easily teach your kids:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before every meal and immediately after using the restroom.
  • Wash your hands anytime you sneeze or cough.
  • Always cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid sharing utensils and drinking glasses with other people, especially when in a group setting.

Managing your symptoms

The good thing is that scarlet fever can easily be managed if noticed early, and the needed treatment for this condition is antibiotics.

However, there are several things you can do to ease the discomfort and symptoms that are associated with scarlet fever. Here are a few remedies that you can cry out:

  • Drink broth-based soups or warm teas to help soothe your throat.
  • Try a liquid diet or soft foods if eating is painful.
  • Take OTC ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to ease throat pain.
  • Use OTC anti-itch medication or cream to relieve itching.
  • Stay hydrated with clean water to moisten your throat and avoid getting dehydrated.
  • Suck on throat lozenges once you feel a sore throat. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is safe for kids older than four years of age to use lozenges to relieve throat pains or sore throats.
  • Try to avoid irritants in the air, such as pollution
  • Stay away from smokers, and do not smoke.
  • Use a saltwater gargle to ease throat pain.
  • Humidify the air in your living space to stop throat irritation from dry air.

If you find this article helpful, or you would like to share your thoughts and ask questions, please leave a comment below, and we will gladly respond.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.