Scarlet Fever in Children

What is scarlet fever in children?

Scarlet fever is an infectious disease that causes a rash. It’s also
known as scarlatina. It is caused by the same kind of bacteria that cause strep throat.
It may also be caused by infected wounds or burns. The rash is made up of tiny red bumps
that feel like sandpaper.

What causes scarlet fever in a child?

Scarlet fever is caused by bacteria called group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus (GABHS). These bacteria release a poison (toxin) that travels through your child’s bloodstream and causes a rash.

The strep A bacteria live in the nose and throat. When someone who has the disease coughs or sneezes, the bacteria are spread onto surfaces. A child can get sick by touching one of these surfaces and then touching his or her nose, mouth, or eyes. A child can also get it by sharing cups or eating utensils with someone who is sick. Contact with open sores from group A strep skin infections can also spread the disease.

Which children are at risk for scarlet fever?

Scarlet fever most commonly occurs in children between 5 and 12 years old. A child is more at risk for scarlet fever if he or she is around a person who is infected with GABHS bacteria.

What are the symptoms of scarlet fever in a child?

Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can start with:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Coated white tongue
  • Strawberry-like color of the tongue

The rash starts about 1 to 2 days after the first symptoms. The red, sandpaper-like rash appears on the neck, forehead, cheeks, and chest. It may then spread to the arms and back. The rash usually starts to fade after 2 to 7 days. The skin in the areas of the rash may peel after the infection is over, especially on the hands, feet, and genitals.

The symptoms of scarlet fever can
be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees a healthcare provider for a
diagnosis.

How is scarlet fever diagnosed in a child?

The healthcare provider will ask
about your child’s symptoms, your child’s past health, and your family’s health history.
Your child will also need a physical exam. The exam will include looking at the rash.
The rash of scarlet fever is different from other rashes.

Your child may also have a throat swab. This is done to confirm strep throat as the source of the scarlet fever. This may be a quick test called a rapid strep test. This may test positive for GABHS right away. If the test is negative, part of the throat swab may be sent to a lab. The lab will let the bacteria grow and see if there is any GABHS in the sample.