Scarlet Fever Symptoms Revealed After Health Body Warns Of Rise In Infections

“We have seen more cases of scarlet fever in the last few years than we’ve been used to."

Cases of scarlet fever have risen for the sixth consecutive season, according to Public Health England (PHE), with 6,316 cases reported since mid-September 2018.

While these days it’s considered a mild illness, scarlet fever is highly infectious, which is why PHE is warning parents to be on the lookout for symptoms in children – the bacterial infection generally affects those under 10 years of age and tends to do the rounds in winter and spring.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, senior epidemiologist at PHE, said they are investigating possible reasons as to why there has been a rise in scarlet fever cases over the last few years. “We are monitoring the situation closely and remind parents to be aware of the symptoms of scarlet fever and to contact their GP for assessment if they think their child might have it,” she said.

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Symptoms Of Scarlet Fever

The infection tends to start with flu-like symptoms which can include a high temperature and swollen neck glands. Children might have a sore throat and headache, as well as a characteristic pink or red body rash with a “sandpapery feel” – often this will appear on the child’s chest. Other warning signs include a white coating on their tongue and flushed cheeks.


If you suspect your child has scarlet fever, you should contact your local GP or call NHS 111. “Scarlet fever is contagious but not usually serious,” said Dr Lamagni. She added that it can be treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of complications, such as pneumonia, and spread to others.

Children or adults diagnosed with scarlet fever are advised to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others. This means taking time off from nursery, school or work.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said patients should rest, drink plenty of fluids, and use antihistamine tablets or calamine lotion for relief of symptoms related to the rash. It might also be helpful to eat soft foods which don’t hurt the throat and take painkillers like paracetamol.

The illness will typically last for around a week. To reduce the chances of the infection spreading to others, make sure you and your child wash hands often with soap and warm water, use tissues to trap germs from coughs or sneezes and bin them immediately once used.

Prof Stokes-Lampard added: “We have seen more cases of scarlet fever in the last few years than we’ve been used to – we’re unsure why this is, but if a patient thinks that they, or their child, might have symptoms, then they should seek medical advice.”