By Raising Children Network
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Scarlet fever is caused by a bacterial infection. Its symptoms include sore throat, swollen glands, fever, and a red spotty rash. See your GP if you think your child has scarlet fever symptoms.

Causes of scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus (Group A), which is spread by sneezing and coughing.

Scarlet fever symptoms

Scarlet fever is one set of symptoms that can appear when a child is infected by Streptococcus A.

The most common symptoms of this Streptococcus A infection are the sudden onset of a sore throat, tender and swollen lymph glands in the neck, a high fever, vomiting, and a characteristic rash covering the whole body.

The rash consists of tiny red spots, a bit like sunburn. It’s usually rough and a bit bumpy, like sandpaper.

Your child’s tongue might also turn bright red. This is sometimes called a ‘strawberry tongue’.

If your child has scarlet fever, he’ll be infectious for 1-2 days if he gets the right treatment. But the infection might last 10-21 days if it isn’t treated.

When to see your doctor about scarlet fever symptoms

You should take your child to the GP if your child shows the symptoms noted above.

Your doctor might do a throat swab and blood tests to confirm your child has scarlet fever. If it is scarlet fever, the GP can prescribe appropriate antibiotics, and your child will get better quickly.

Treatment for scarlet fever

Scarlet fever looks dramatic but is usually easily treated with antibiotics from the penicillin group.

If your child is allergic to penicillin, your doctor will prescribe a different kind of antibiotic.

It’s important to note that many things, including viruses, can cause a sore throat and a rash. If your child’s symptoms are caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t work.

  • Last updated or reviewed 09-11-2015