With news that scarlet fever is on the rise in the UK right now, health warnings have been issued to parents, urging them to be vigilant to the signs and symptoms of the infection.
As scarlet fever most commonly affects children aged between five and 15, here is a guide to what every parent needs to know about the condition.
What is scarlet fever?
Scarlet fever is an infection caused by group A streptococcus bacteria (commonly referred to as strep A). The bacteria produces a toxin into the body, with fluid in the lymph nodes carrying the infection around to various glands.
What are the signs and symptoms of scarlet fever?
- Rash: the biggest sign of scarlet fever is a red, coarse, sandpaper-y rash. It usually appears first on the face and neck, before showing up on other parts of the body. This rash tends be worse within the folds of the skin. It blanches (turns white) when pressure is applied (e.g. when a tumbler is held over the skin).
- Sore throat (often accompanied by swollen tonsils)
- ‘Strawberry tongue’ (white tongue with red spots)
How do you catch scarlet fever?
Scarlet fever is highly contagious, and is transferred through droplet-contact. So, the infection can be caught by breathing in air, touching the skin, or sharing eating/ drinking utensils and garments of an infected individual.
How is scarlet fever diagnosed?
This is why it’s so important to know the signs and symptoms of the infection; if your child displays the above symptoms, they need to be examined by a doctor.
The doctor will perform a physical examination, and a throat swab will be taken and sent to a lab for testing. Scarlet fever is confirmed by the presence of Strep A bacteria.
Scarlet fever is treated with a course of antibiotics, to kill off the harmful bacteria.
Your doctor can recommend an over-the-counter remedy for both controlling your child’s fever and soothing their sore throat.
Can I prevent my child from catching scarlet fever?
As scarlet fever is a highly contagious infection, it can be challenging to keep our little ones isolated from the condition; however, there are some steps you can take to fend off the illness.
Ensure your children wash their hands frequently and carry an antibacterial gel at all times, to kill off harmful bacterial.
Always consult with your doctor if you are concerned about your health, or that of your child or another family member.