Scarlet Fever: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Overview

Scarlet fever, also known as scarlatina, is a bacterial illness that can develop in people who have strep throat or strep skin infections. It is characterized by a bright red rash on the body, looking like a sunburn, and usually accompanied with a high fever and sore throat. Scarlet fever is common in children at the age of 5 to 15. Scarlet Fever is considered as a contagious disease because it can spread from one person to another by means of droplets and other nasal or respiratory secretions. The annual incidence of scarlet fever is estimated to be 0.3 cases per 1000 per year.

Causes

Scarlet
fever is caused by group A Streptococcus, or Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria.
These bacteria can produce a erythrogenic toxin that causes the bright red rash
on the body.

Symptoms

The
rash is the most common symptom of scarlet fever. It usually begins as a red
blotchy rash and becomes fine and rough like sandpaper. The rash begins on the
neck, groin, and under the arms. It can then spread to the rest of the body.
Other common symptoms of scarlet fever include:

  • Red lines
  • Red face
  • “Strawberry” tongue
  • Sore and red throat
  • Fever above 101°F
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Whitish coating on the tonsils and throat
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing

Diagnosis

To
diagnose scarlet fever, several tests and procedures can be done:

  • Physical exam. The doctor will look at the patient’s throat, tongue, and tonsils to check for signs of scarlet fever. The doctor will also look for enlarged lymph nodes and examine the appearance and texture of the rash.

  • Rapid strep test. A rapid strep test involves a quick throat swab. The test can show the presence of group A streptococcus bacteria within a few minutes.

  • Throat swab. If the doctor suspects you have a strep throat, he might swab your throat and tonsils. The swab can collect materials containing bacteria.

Treatment

Scarlet
fever is typically treated with antibiotics and they are generally curative. Antibiotics
can kill bacteria and help the immune system fight off the bacteria causing the
infection. It is necessary to complete the entire course of the prescribed
medication, which is nearly 10 days. This will help prevent the infection from
causing further complications or reoccurrence.

Besides,
the doctor may suggest other measures that may improve the symptoms:

  • Take certain over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, for fever and pain.

  • Gargle with warm salty water to relieve mouth and throat pain.

  • Drink a lot of water. It can help keep your throat moist and avoid dehydration.

  • Add moisture to the air indoors. A cool humid environment may help ease a sore throat.

Keywords: Scarlet fever

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