How is scarlet fever treated?

The main goal of treating scarlet fever is to relieve the fever.
The main goal of treating scarlet fever is to relieve the fever.

The main goal of treating scarlet fever is to relieve the fever and itching as it causes discomfort to the patient. The treatment goal also includes reducing the spread of the disease. 

As scarlet fever is caused by bacteria, once the infection is confirmed, a course of antibiotics may be prescribed, usually penicillin, for up to 10 days. In some situations, a single dose of penicillin may be given by intramuscular injection. Patients allergic to penicillin may be treated with an alternative antibiotic, such as erythromycin.

Other common treatments include:

  • Paracetamol when necessary for fever, headache, or throat pain.
  • Eating soft foods and drinking plenty of cool liquids, particularly if the throat is very painful.
  • Oral antihistamines and emollients to relieve the itch of rash.
  • Fingernails may be required to be short on young children to prevent them from damaging the skin due to itching.
  • The fever usually improves within 12-24 hours after starting antibiotics and most patients recover after 4-5 days with the clearing of a rash over several weeks.

Home remedies:

  • Provide adequate fluids and rest to the patient for at least two weeks
  • Gargling with lukewarm water and salt
  • Humidify the air
  • Maintaining a soft and healthy diet
  • Avoiding smoke exposure

What are the common symptoms of scarlet fever?

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection. The distinctive feature of scarlet fever is a sore throat followed by a rash made up of tiny pinkish-red spots that cover the whole body. Scarlet fever occurs mostly in children. The symptoms include:

  • A Sore throat that may show white or yellow patches when examined
  • Fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, often with chills
  • A whitish coating on the surface of the tongue. The tongue may look like a strawberry.
  • A rash first appeared as tiny red bumps on the chest and abdomen. The rash may then spread over the body, lasting about two to five days. After the rash, often the skin on the tips of the fingers and toes will peel.
  • Flushed face with a pale area around the lips.
  • Swollen glands in the neck.
  • Weakness
  • Headache

What are the causes of scarlet fever?

The cause of scarlet fever is an infection with group A streptococci (group A strep) bacteria. During the infection, it can produce an erythrogenic (producing a red-colored) toxin. This toxin is responsible for causing the sandpaper-like red-colored skin rash and fever:

  • The infection is often passed among classmates at school or among the family members. It's most often spread by droplet contact. The droplets are emitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also spread if a person touches a plate or glass on which these droplets have landed.
  • The bacteria usually infect the throat (‘strep throat’) or skin (‘school sores’). The bacteria then release toxins that cause swelling of the skin and lead to the development of the rash.
  • This bacterium is usually found in the saliva and mucus of an infected person. When they cough, sneeze or talk, small droplets containing the bacteria are spread through the air and maybe breathed in by nearby people. 
  • Only a very small number of people infected with group A strep will develop scarlet fever. 
  • If an individual develops scarlet fever, it usually takes 2-5 days for the symptoms to start after infection.
  • Scarlet fever can also be seen after the burns or wounds are infected.

What are the complications of scarlet fever?

If scarlet fever is left untreated or treatment is unsuccessful, the following complications may arise:

  • Rheumatic fever: This affects the heart and kidneys. This may also permanently damage the body and require long-term treatment.
  • Ear infections 
  • Adenitis or throat abscesses
  • Inflammation and infections of the sinuses (sinusitis)
  • Kidney infections
  • Lung infections (pneumonia)
  • Death

How can we prevent scarlet fever?

The only way to prevent scarlet fever is by washing hands and maintains hygiene. It may be recommended not to share plates or utensils with other people, especially in schools and hostels. The best practice that may be followed is that people should cover their nose and mouth with a mask.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/4/2020
References
Scarlet fever: (https://www.ndhealth.gov/Disease/Documents/faqs/ScarletFever.pdf)