What is Scarlet Fever?

Parents are being warned to look out for symptoms of scarlet fever as the number of cases is growing quickly in parts of England and Wales.

In fact, the number of cases has reached an almost 50-year high and yet how many of us know anything about this disease?

scarlet fever - picture of child with flushed cheeks

Scarlet fever is a highly contagious disease caused by an infection with bacteria in the group A Streptococcus (the same bacteria that cause strep throat).

It mainly affects children with those aged between 2-8 being most at risk.

Scarlet fever is treatable with antibiotics and usually is a mild illness, but it needs to be treated to prevent rare but serious long-term health problems.

There is no vaccine.

The incubation period for this disease is about 12 hours to seven days.

Scarlet fever is usually spread by the aerosol route (inhalation), but may also be spread by skin contact or anything capable of carrying infection including skin cells, hair, clothing and bedding.

As it’s so contagious, scarlet fever is likely to affect someone in close contact with a person with a sore throat or skin infection caused by streptococcus bacteria.

Early symptoms to look out for are a sore throat, headache and fever with a pinkish/red sandpapery rash appearing within a day or two.

The rash usually first appears on the chest and stomach before spreading to other parts of the body.

Scarlet fever is usually treated with a 10-day course of antibiotics, often in the form of penicillin or amoxicillin tablets, although liquid may be used for young children.

The fever usually gets better within 24 hours of starting antibiotics, with the other symptoms disappearing within a few days.

If scarlet fever has been caught as a result of a throat infection, the fever usually goes within 3 to 5 days, and the sore throat passes soon afterwards.

The scarlet rash usually fades on the sixth day after sore throat symptoms began, but skin that was covered by rash may begin to peel. This peeling may last 10 days.

You should keep your child away from nursery or school for at least 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment.

Adults with scarlet fever should also stay off work for at least 24 hours after starting treatment.

You can also take some simple self-care measures such as:-

– drinking plenty of cool fluids
– eating soft foods (if your throat is painful)
– taking paracetamol to bring down a high temperature
– using calamine lotion or antihistamine tablets to relieve itching

For further information go to the NHS website.


  1. 15 April, 2018 / 9:03 pm

    great blog post. There is so much to look out for when you have little ones!

  2. Emily
    15 April, 2018 / 4:00 pm

    I never actually experience scarlet fever myself as a child and I’ll be honest I didn’t know exactly what it was this post has certainly been an eye-opener!

    Musings & More

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