What Causes a Strep Throat Rash?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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Strep throat rash, also known as scarlet fever, is caused by the presence of strep throat infection triggered by exposure to group A streptococcus bacteria. Frequently occurring in children and adolescents, individuals with this condition develop a textured skin rash that may appear on their limbs and torso, as well as other diverse flu-like symptoms. Presenting with traditional strep throat infection, treatment for strep throat rash generally involves the administration of antibiotics to eliminate infection and prevent complications.

The streptococci bacterium that induces strep throat rash is aggressive and may be easily spread through close interpersonal contact. Symptoms of scarlet fever generally present within a few days of one’s initial exposure to streptococci bacteria. Individuals frequently develop a tell-tale red rash that presents on their neck and upper torso before spreading to the extremities, including limbs and digits. Textured in its appearance, the toxin-induced rash aggressively spreads over the body and generally lasts for at least one week.

Simultaneously manifesting with strep throat rash, individuals may also develop characteristic signs of traditional strep, including sore throat and headache. It is not uncommon for symptomatic individuals to experience difficulty eating and drinking due to the discomfort the condition causes in the throat. His or her tongue may also adopt a reddish, swollen appearance that contributes to his or her oral discomfort. Additional signs of strep throat rash include fever, chills, abdominal discomfort, and a general feeling of achiness.


Complications associated with strep throat rash rarely occur with the administration of prompt and appropriate treatment. When an individual’s symptoms are ignored, however, the infection can spread, threatening organ function and causing permanent damage. If left untreated, strep throat rash can spread to areas in the head, ultimately settling in the sinuses, ears, or brain. Organ function may also be jeopardized if the infection and subsequent inflammation presents in the heart, lungs, or kidneys. Additional complications may also include abscess formation, pneumonia, and meningitis.

Advances in modern medicine have reduced the threat that strep throat rash once presented. Considered a treatable condition, scarlet fever may be diagnosed with the aid of a physical examination and throat culture. The administration of a throat culture involves swabbing the individual’s throat, in the area near the tonsils, to obtain a saliva sample that may be submitted for laboratory analysis to identify the cause of infection.

Antibiotic medications, such as clarithromycin and penicillin, are usually prescribed to aggressively eradicate the bacterial presence and infection. To prevent complication development, individuals are instructed to strictly adhere to the treatment regimen their doctor recommends. Due to the ease with which strep bacterium spreads, close interpersonal contact is generally discouraged for symptomatic individuals, including sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils. Proactive measures, such as regular hand washing and covering one’s mouth when sneezing or coughing, are also encouraged to prevent the spread of streptococci bacteria.


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