Intimidating as it may sound, Scarlet Fever is quite common and no cause for panic – a fact that many parents in Central Florida have learned this past week as Centra Care locations report a significant increase in cases.
Scarlet Fever is a disease caused by infection with the group A Streptococcus bacteria (the same bacteria that cause strep throat). Once a very serious childhood illness, Scarlet Fever is now easily treatable with antibiotics. The time between becoming infected and having symptoms is short, generally 1 – 2 days. The illness typically begins with a fever and sore throat.
The most noticeable symptom of Scarlet Fever is a red rash that feels like sandpaper. The rash usually appears 24 hours after a fever starts. The rash begins on the chest and abdomen and then spreads over the rest of the body. The rash and redness are more apparent in skin folds, especially in the groin, armpits and elbow creases. It usually fades in about a week, and at that time the skin may begin to peel.
Beside the rash, the symptoms of Scarlet Fever are the same as the symptoms of strep throat. If you or your child have any the following symptoms, call your doctor:
- Fever of 101°F or higher
- Sore throat
- White spots on the throat and tonsils
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
Other symptoms that appear before the rash, especially in children, may include general body aches, headache, stomachache, nausea, vomiting, or listlessness. Scarlet Fever usually doesn’t occur with cold symptoms, such as sneezing, runny or stuffy nose or cough.
After a physical examination, a doctor will perform a throat swab to positively diagnose Scarlet Fever. Antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria that cause the infection. With proper antibiotic treatment, the symptoms of Scarlet Fever should get better quickly. But the rash can last for up to three weeks before it fully goes away.