Thames Valley Public Health England Centre,



Tel 0845 279 9879.  


Scarlet Fever


What is it? Scarlet  fever  is  one  of  a  range  of  conditions  caused  by  a  toxin  from  a  germ  called streptococcus. Most often these germs cause a sore throat alone.  However, scarlet fever is a form of streptococcal disease characterised by a skin rash. This germ is commonly found on  the  skin  or  in  the  throat,  where  they  can  live  without  causing  problems.  Under  some circumstances,  however,  this  germ  can  cause  this  condition.  This  infection  is  mainly  a childhood disease and is most common between the ages of two and eight years.


How do I know if someone has it? The main symptoms include a sore throat and fever and a fine, raised, red rash, which feels like  sandpaper  and  disappears  momentarily  when  pressed. The  rash  appears  most commonly on the neck, chest, under the arms, elbows and inner thighs. The rash does not usually  affect  the  face,  which  is  flushed,  paleness  around  the  mouth  can  occur.  During convalescence,  the  skin  usually  peels  on  the fingers  and  toes. The rash resembles that of several  other  illnesses,  such  as measles  or  slapped  cheek  disease.  Diagnosis can be confirmed by doing a throat swab.


Is it infectious? Yes, to close contacts of the patient. Rarely, it can be contracted by indirect contact through objects. Period of nfectiousness is prolonged in untreated cases.


What is the incubation period (the time between being infected and feeling ill)? Usually 2 to 5 days, but sometimes longer.


What should I do if someone has the illness? Consult your doctor who will confirm the diagnosis and decide about treatment. The infected person should rest while they have a fever. Keep  a  child  with  a  fever  cool  by  reducing  clothing  and  bed  clothes  and  by  giving paracetamol  as  directed  on  the  bottle.    Sponging  a  child  down  with  tepid  water  will help to bring a high temperature down.



Penicillin reduces the length of the illness and the possibility of rare complications (such as rheumatic heart disease). There arealternatives for people allergic to penicillin.


How can spread be avoided? If possible, babies and people with low resistance to infection (immunosuppression) should avoid contact with the patient. Good personal hygiene. Antibiotic treatment.


How soon can someone return to school/work? 24 hours after commencing antibiotics and they are well enough to attend.

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