Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection that is spread through coughing, sneezing or skin contact. It is most common in children aged between two and eight.
Once a dangerous and potentially even fatal disease, thanks to the advent of antibiotic drugs, it is now usually only a mild illness.
However, like other childhood illness such as chickenpox and impetigo, it can be an uncomfortable and inconvenient experience for young children.
So, with cases of the highly contagious infection on the rise in the UK, it is best to be vigilant and learn the signs of scarlet fever so you can get your child treatment to reduce the discomfort and threat of contagion as early as possible.
The earliest sign of the onset of scarlet fever is usually a sore throat. However, this is a very common symptom of many common childhood illnesses, such as tonsillitis and colds.
The major distinctive symptom of scarlet fever, and the one that gives the infection its name, is the scarlet fever rash. Pinkish-red in colour, it can spread over different areas of the body, including the limbs, chest, neck and ears.
Scarlet fever rash may be itchy and uncomfortable, and it usually rough to the touch, with a texture like sandpaper. If your child is in pain, calamine lotion or antihistamine tablets may provide some welcome relief from itching.
Other symptoms include:
- a high temperature
- flushed face
- a red and/or swollen tongue, or a pale one with red spots
These symptoms should start to die down after a few days and disappear altogether after a week.
If you think your child might have scarlet fever, consult your GP as soon as possible. They will be able to confirm the diagnosis, and will often prescribe a short course of antibiotics, which will stop your child from being contagious.
While your child is infected, aim to keep them away from others as much as possible, including taking them out of school. Make sure they don't share anything they have come into contact with, such as utensils, cups, towels and sheets - and wash these items thoroughly after use.