Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection caused by a strep infection. In the past, it meant certain death, but the good news is that, for the last hundred years, it can easily be treated by antibiotics. Find out more about scarlet fever.
Scarlet fever generally starts off with a sore throat, headache, and fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 degrees Centigrade) or higher. The other symptoms that a child with scarlet fever may exhibit include:
Scarlet fever is serious if undiagnosed or left untreated with antibiotics, as any infection involving the streptococcus bacteria can have serious complications. These include abscesses on the tonsils and rheumatic fever, which can affect the valves of the heart (the condition was feared in the pre-antibiotic era because of these complications).
A child with scarlet fever will probably have a high temperature so it’s important that they have a good fluid intake, as they will be more prone to becoming dehydrated. Eating may well be painful for them because of their strep throat, so soft foods and soups will probably be easier to manage than more solid meals.
You should call for an immediate appointment with your doctor if your child has a sore throat, a rash, fever, swollen glands, a white coating on the tonsils or the back of the throat, or any of the other symptoms of scarlet fever or strep throat. If your child has already been diagnosed with scarlet fever and has commenced antibiotics, you should call the doctor if they still have a fever or other symptoms 48 hours after starting them.
Twenty-four hours after your child has been diagnosed with scarlet fever and has started their course of antibiotics, they won’t be infectious. Within that first 24 hours you should take sensible precautions by separating their drinking glasses, cups, utensils, sheets, towels, toys and other shared objects from those of other family members. These items should be thoroughly washed in hot water with detergent and anyone handling them should wash their hands frequently. Any family members exhibiting symptoms such as a sore throat (with or without a rash) should be tested for strep infection.
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