The causative agent of scarlet fever is the bacterium that also causes strep throat. The following HealthHearty write-up provides information on the contributing factors and treatment of this condition.
Scarlet fever, which was earlier referred to as scarlatina, usually affects children within the age group of 3 to 15 years. It is caused by the group A Streptococcus bacteria, which is the bacterium that is also responsible for causing strep throat. The characteristic symptom of this condition is a skin rash. It is the release of erythrogenic toxin by the bacteria that causes the development of the rash on the body.
There are a few common symptoms that can help identify this disease. One of them being the hallmark pinkish-red rash that first appears on the neck and the chest. However, this rash can spread to other parts of the body as well. One can distinguish the characteristic rash by pressing a glass against the rash. The color of the rash will turn into white, when it is pressed against the glass. The texture of the affected skin is rough, similar to that of a sandpaper. This skin rash lasts for about 2 to 7 days. When the rash is gone, the skin on the tip of the fingers, as well as toes begins to peel off.
The affected child is likely to have a sore throat. The child may have swollen lymph nodes in the neck, with a fever of about 101ºF. Sometimes, the child may experience chills. The child may have difficulty swallowing food and water.
He/she may even complain of headaches, nausea, malaise, loss of appetite, and Pastia’s lines (red streaks in the folds of the armpits and groin). Some children may experience symptoms such as abdominal pain and vomiting.
The other prominent symptom, apart from the rash, is the strawberry tongue. The tongue has a white coating initially, but slowly turns red and swollen.
Is it Contagious?
Scarlet fever is contagious. It is transmitted through the fluids in the mouth and nose. When the infected person coughs or sneezes, the bacteria could become airborne. Bacteria could also get transmitted from surfaces that have been touched by the infected person. Sharing handkerchiefs, towels, clothes, bed linen, etc., also increases the risk of transmission. Even after the rash is long gone, the person remains contagious for several weeks.
If the child is diagnosed with this condition, treatment involves antibiotic therapy. Doctors might prescribe penicillin, amoxicillin, clindamycin, etc. The fever tends to reduce within 12 to 24 hours of taking medication. The child should be given plenty of liquids to drink. As the child cannot swallow food, you can give him some soft foods. Affected children should wear loose cotton clothes. You can apply calamine lotion on the skin to reduce the itching. Children over the age of 4 years can have lozenges to soothe the irritated throat. If the child is old enough, you can ask him to gargle with salt water. This will help reduce the discomfort.
With timely antibiotic therapy, the symptoms of scarlet fever can be alleviated within a week. Complications are rare, but in the absence of treatment, there’s the risk of the development of conditions such as pneumonia, meningitis, acute rheumatic fever, etc. Medical assistance must be sought if your child is exhibiting any of the aforementioned symptoms.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.