Scarlet fever is an incredibly infectious condition that most often affects children. It used to be quite common and extremely dangerous, but it is now treatable. The disease is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria, and it occurs after a throat or skin infection, like strep throat. Strep infections are commonly treated with antibiotics.
Also known by the name scarletina, scarlet fever most commonly occurs in children between the ages of four and eight years old, although people of any age can catch it. The infection is airborne, which means that the bacteria can be passed through the air in sneezes and coughs. Although the bacteria is very contagious, the disease itself is often relatively mild. Symptoms appear within two to four days of a person becoming infected.
Scarlet fever symptoms often begin with a sore throat, but the most distinctive symptom is a red rash that appears on the body. The rash will be rough to the touch, similar to sandpaper. It has been known to spread over the entire body, but commonly affects the face, neck, chest, and groin area.
When the rash appears on the face, it often makes the cheek area pink and flushed, while the area around the mouth will stay quite pale. People can do a quick check for the disease by pressing a glass to the red area, which will turn white when the pressure is applied. Any suspected cases of scarlet fever should be definitively diagnosed by a medical professional.
Several other symptoms may also be seen in people with the infection. They may develop headaches and a general feeling of illness, as well as loss of appetite and pain in the abdomen. The glands in the neck may become swollen, and nausea or vomiting may also occur. Scarlet fever can also cause a white coating on the tongue that may disappear after a few days and leave the tongue swollen and red. Broken blood vessels may also occur over the body, usually in areas like the armpit.
The rash usually lasts for around a week and then fades away without treatment. A medical professional should be consulted, however, and he or she will often prescribe antibiotics in order to eliminate any complications and speed the recovery process. Antibiotics — often an oral penicillin medication — are often prescribed for 10 days, and any fever will normally disappear within 24 hours of starting the medication.