Pediatric Scarlet Fever

Pediatric Scarlet Fever

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Summary

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection characterized by a red rash that spreads all over the body. Group A streptococcus, the same bacteria responsible for strep throat, causes scarlet fever.

Expanded Overview

A child who experiences a sore throat, fever and rash may have scarlet fever. Specific group A streptococcus bacteria produce a toxin that can cause a red rash – the “scarlet” of scarlet fever, also known as scarlatina. The rash looks like a sunburn with raised bumps.

Scarlett fever was once considered a serious childhood infection, but can now be effectively treated with antibiotics. Kids between the ages of 5 and 15 are most often affected.

Causes

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection caused by group A streptococcus. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the droplets released can infect others. It can also be transmitted when someone touches an object that’s been contaminated or shares food or a drink.

Children can also become infected with scarlet fever from contact with sores from a group A streptococcus skin infection, such as impetigo (causes red sores on the face).

Symptoms

Symptoms start within a couple of days of exposure to the infection, beginning with a fever higher than 101 degrees and sore throat.

A rash is the most telling symptom of scarlet fever. It appears about two days after the infection begins and starts out first on the neck, underarms and groin. The rash begins as red blotches, then eventually looks like a sunburn with bumps on the skin.

Other symptoms include:

  • Chills and body aches
  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • Nausea/vomiting 
  • Swollen glands
  • Tongue with whitish, yellowish coating

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