Scarlet Fever Information
Scarlet fever or Scarlatina is an infectious disease usually occurring in childhood. Learn to identify scarlet fever.
Scarlatina, or scarlet fever, is an infectious disease usually occurring in childhood that is caused by a strain of streptococcal bacteria. It is characterized by a sore throat, fever and a widespread pink rash. The rash is most obvious on the abdomen, the sides of the chest and in the skin folds. Other symptoms may include a pale area around the mouth, a flushed face, an inflamed red tongue and dark red lines in the skin folds. In many cases the outer layer of reddened skin will peel after the fever has subsided.
Today scarlet fever is not as common or dangerous as it used to be. The bacteria are spread in droplets coughed or breathed into the air. The incubation period is two to four days, after which a sore throat, headache and fever will develop in an infected child. Shortly afterward the rash will appear caused by the toxins released by the bacteria. The rash begins as a mass of tiny red spots and spreads rapidly. The tongue will develop a white coating and red spots. After a few days the coating will peel to leave the tongue with a bright red appearance. Within a short time after this happens the fever will subside.
With this and any other type of sore throat caused by streptococci there is a risk of rheumatic fever or glomerulonephritis, which is an inflammation of the kidneys. The infection should be treated immediately to prevent further illness and damage. In most cases a physician can diagnose scarlet fever from the symptoms and signs. If necessary he will take a culture of the bacteria from a throat swab. This sample is then placed in a Petri dish and allowed to grow over night. As an alternative, Group A streptococci can be detected by a special rapid test that can produce results within less than an hour. When a rapid test is positive, the overnight culture is not necessary.
Scarlet fever is treated with antibiotic drugs such as penicillin or erythromycin if the patient is allergic to penicillin. This treatment will lead to a quick recovery. A child with scarlet fever should rest, drink plenty of fluids and be given acetaminophen to relieve any discomfort and reduce the fever. The average term of this illness is around two weeks even without treatment. But without treatment there is a danger that the infection can spread to the middle ear, sinuses and mastoid bone, as well as to other people. Also long term complications can happen if not treated promptly.
Streptococci can live in the respiratory tract, intestine and other areas within the body without causing problems. If a person is a carrier this bacteria can be found in an inflamed area and the streptococci are incorrectly identified as the cause of the infection. The most common type of infection caused by this bacteria is a throat infection known a strep throat. Certain strains of streptococci may cause a rapidly spreading and destructive infection un the skin. For unknown reasons more and more out breaks of this infection are becoming more common today.