What is Scarlet Fever?

Scarlet fever, often known as scarlatina, is a bacterial infection that causes strep throat, high fever and a bright red rash on the body. Scarlet fever mainly affects children between 5 to 15 years. It was once a serious childhood health problem, but now it is less threatening. Early treatment with antibiotics can improve and reduce the intensity of the symptoms.. The most common symptom of scarlet fever in both adults and children is a red rash on the body. It generally starts as a red blotchy rash and becomes thin and scratchy like sandpaper.

Scarlet Fever

Symptoms of Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever appears sunburned at first. The rash usually starts on the face and neck and spreads to the rest of the body causing itching. Other symptoms of scarlet fever include:

  • Sore throat that may have white blotches
  • Fever, with or without chills
  • Headache or body aches
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Nausea, Vomiting and abdominal pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Deep red colouring in the creases of the arms, legs, neck and groin.
  • Flushed face with a pale ring around the mouth

According to some studies, strep bacterial infection can develop an autoimmune response that increases symptoms of some childhood diseases. The severity of symptoms normally subsides after a few weeks or months.

When to see a doctor?

Contact your doctor if the child develops a rash suddenly, especially if they also have a fever, Sore throat, or swollen glands. This is especially critical if the kid shows signs of Strep throat along with fever or if someone in the family, daycare, or school has recently been infected with Streptococcus bacteria.


Streptococcus pyogenes is a small germ (bacterium) that causes scarlet fever. The germ is also known as 'group A Strep.' This bacteria causes a variety of ailments, including skin infections or chest, and heart infections. Sometimes, the germs (bacteria) only cause a sore throat, not the scarlet fever rash. This is commonly referred to as 'Strep throat' or simple tonsillitis.' In scarlet fever, however, the streptococcus bacteria produce toxins that travel throughout the body and develop red body rash. If scarlet fever is left untreated it can lead to kidney and heart problems later in life.

This bacterial infection is transmitted from person to person by droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The scarlet fever incubation period is usually 2 to 4 days.

Risk Factors of Scarlet Fever

Children 5 to 15 years of age are more likely to get scarlet fever. This infection is easily transmitted when someone is in close contact with an infected person, such as family members, child-care groups, or classmates.

Usually, scarlet fever occurs after a strep throat infection. On a few occasions scarlet fever may happen after a skin infection, like an impetigo.

Complications of Scarlet Fever

The symptoms of scarlet fever should usually disappear in 10 to 2 weeks with antibiotic treatment. If left untreated this infection can have serious consequences. These are some examples:

  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infection
  • Sinusitis
  • Throat abscess
  • Long-term kidney disease
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Inflammation of the kidneys,
  • Skin infections

The following complications are possible but very rare:

  • Meningitis
  • Acute kidney failure
  • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Necrotizing fasciitis,
  • Endocarditis
  • Infection of the bone and bone marrow

Prevention of Scarlet Fever

There is no vaccine to prevent scarlet fever. By taking certain precautions it is possible to keep away from the disease

  • Wash your hands: Show your child how to thoroughly wash their hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitiser can be used if soap and water are unavailable.
  • Don't share dining utensils or food: Children should never share cups or utensils with friends or classmates.
  • Cover mouth and nose: To avoid the transmission of germs, teach your kid to cover their mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing.

If your kid has scarlet fever, always wash drinking glasses and utensils in hot soapy water or the dishwasher after they have been used.


If the child gets a sore throat with a body rash or fever, consult the doctor immediately. To check for scarlet fever, the doctor will do the following tests:

  • Physical exam: A doctor will examine the rash and throat to determine whether the lymph nodes are swollen. They will also look for symptoms such as chills, fever, and body aches. They'll enquire if the child experiences nausea, vomiting, or a lack of appetite.
  • Throat swab: To determine if the symptoms are caused by scarlet fever or strep throat, they will swab the throat and tonsils for group A strep bacteria.
  • Rapid strep test: The results of a rapid test will be ready before you leave the office. If it is negative, the doctor may order a culture, which is a more in-depth method to check whether or not a bacterium is present.

It is important to check for strep because other infections can show the same symptoms as strep. and may be treated differently.


  • Antibiotics are used to treat scarlet fever. Antibiotics kill germs and aid the body's immune system in fighting the bacterium that is causing the disease. Make sure you or your child complete the whole course of medicine. This will assist in keeping the infection from spreading or creating complications.
  • You can also treat fever and discomfort using over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Consult your doctor to determine whether your child is old enough to take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Adults can take ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Because of the increased risk of developing Reye's syndrome, aspirin should be avoided at any age during a fever.
  • The doctor may prescribe other medications to help relieve sore throat pain. Gargling with salt water and using a cold air humidifier can help alleviate a sore throat.
  • It is also important that the child drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.
  • There is currently no vaccination available for scarlet fever or group. A strep; however, numerous prospective vaccines are in scientific trials.

Lifestyle changes and self-care

Some precautions can be taken to reduce the child's discomfort and pain during scarlet fever.

  • Take rest: Sleep helps to improve the body's immune system and its ability to fight diseases. Encourage your child to take rest until they feel better.
  • Drink plenty of water: Drink water to lubricate sore throat to facilitate easy swallowing and also to prevent dehydration.
  • Do a saltwater gargle: Gargling salt water multiple times a day might help reduce throat discomfort in older children and adults.
  • Humidify the air: Adding moisture to the air might help relieve pain. Choose a cool-mist humidifier and clean it regularly since germs and mould can grow in some humidifiers. Saline nasal sprays also help in lubricating mucous membranes.
  • Honey: Honey can relieve a sore throat. Honey should not be given to children under the age of 12 months.
  • Offer soothing foods: Soups, cooked cereal, mashed potatoes, soft fruits, yoghurt, and soft-boiled eggs are easy-to-swallow meals. Cold foods like frozen yoghurt, sherbet, frozen fruit pop, and warm beverages like broth can be relaxing. Avoid meals that are hot or acidic, such as orange juice.
  • Avoid irritants: Cigarette smoke can irritate a sore throat. Also, stay away from fumes that might irritate the throat and lungs. These compounds are examples of paint, cleaning products, incense, and essential oils.

Do's and Don’ts

Scarlet fever is a contagious bacterial infection that causes fever, sore throat, chills and flushed face. It is caused by a group A streptococcus (group A strep) infection, also called as Streptococcus pyogenes. Its symptoms include telltale rash, swollen glands in the neck, sore throat and fever. However, there are things you can do to help ease the symptoms and discomfort that come with scarlet fever. It’s important to get treatment to prevent possible complications. By following the below given do’s and don’ts can help you to manage the symptoms and avoid its impact on the health.

Do’s Don’ts
Drink a lot of water to maintain hydration Try to itch the rashes roughly
Eat healthy, nutritious food Expose yourself to fumes and pollution
Take medicines prescribed by the doctor Eat food without washing hands
Gargle with salt water Share utensils and drinking glasses with others
Cover the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. Drink less water

Scarlet fever diagnosis include physical examination, rapid strep test or throat culture. It can be treated with antibiotics, other medications, taking rest and being hydrated. It is not a fatal condition and by taking the necessary precautions, we can prevent its adverse effects.

Care at Medicover Hospitals

At Medicover, we have the best team of medical experts who treat scarlet fever. We have round-the-clock doctors, laboratory, ICU, radiology, and emergency services to ensure patients receive the best possible care on time. The department is staffed by renowned healthcare professionals and compassionate, well-trained paramedical staff to provide satisfactory treatment to our patients.

Find Scarlet fever Specialists Here

Book Free Doctor Appointment

Make an appointment just in few minutes - Call Us Now

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is scarlet fever called nowadays?

Today, we still call it scarlet fever. It's a sickness caused by certain bacteria.

2. How serious is scarlet fever?

Scarlet fever can be a bit bad or really bad. It depends. If you get help from a doctor, it can usually be fixed. But if you don't, it can become a bigger problem, so it's important to see a doctor if you think you have it.

3. Can scarlet fever be cured?

Yes, it can. Doctors give you special medicine called antibiotics, like penicillin. Taking these antibiotics helps you get better. But you need to take all the medicine they give you.

4. How long does scarlet fever last?

Usually, when you take antibiotics, you start feeling better in a few days. But you have to finish all the medicine your doctor gives you. If you don't, the illness can stick around.

5. Is scarlet fever itchy?

No, the rash from scarlet fever isn't itchy. It feels rough like sandpaper when you touch it. The rash starts on your chest and then goes to other parts of your body.

6. Is scarlet fever an emergency?

It's not always an emergency, but it's important to see a doctor quickly if you think you have it. Getting treatment early with antibiotics can help you get better faster and avoid problems.

7. How do you prevent scarlet fever?

You can prevent scarlet fever by washing your hands often, staying away from people who are sick, and seeing a doctor if you have a sore throat. If you have a strep throat, the doctor can give you medicine to stop scarlet fever from happening.

8. What can be mistaken for scarlet fever?

Sometimes, other illnesses like roseola, measles, or Kawasaki disease can look like scarlet fever because they have similar symptoms. A doctor can figure out what you have by checking you and doing tests.

9. How do I know if my child has scarlet fever?

If your child has a sore throat, fever, and a rash that looks like scarlet fever, you should take them to a doctor. The doctor can do tests, like a throat swab, to find out for sure.

10. What is the blood test for scarlet fever?

To find out if you have scarlet fever, doctors usually use a throat swab or a quick strep test to check your throat. Sometimes they might do a blood test to see if you have more white blood cells, which can mean you have an infection.

11. What is the difference between scarlet fever and rubella?

Scarlet fever comes from bacteria, while rubella is caused by a virus called rubella. They have different reasons, symptoms, and treatments. Scarlet fever mostly affects your throat and skin, but rubella causes a rash and feels like having the flu. You can get a vaccine to prevent rubella, but there isn't one for scarlet fever.

Whats app Health Packages Book an Appointment Second Opinion