Scarlet Fever Symptoms & Causes

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In-Depth

What is scarlet fever?

Scarlet fever, also known as scarlatina, is a contagious infection caused by the same bacteria that causes strep throat. In some cases, if your child has strep throat, she may also develop scarlet fever. In addition to your child not feeling well, scarlet fever also results in a fine, "sandpaper-like" rash that consists of small, red bumps.

What causes scarlet fever?

Scarlet fever is caused by toxins that are produced by bacteria. It's usually associated with a strep infection (like strep throat). It may also be associated with wounds or burns that become infected. It is spread from direct contact with a child who is infected, usually through coughs, sneezes or sharing food or drink.

Is scarlet fever common?

Scarlet fever most commonly occurs between the ages of 2 and 10.

What are the symptoms of scarlet fever?

Before the rash develops, scarlet fever can cause a variety of symptoms in your child including:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • chills
  • headache
  • vomiting
  • stomach ache
  • coated white tongue

The rash begins about one to two days after the initial infection. The red, fine, "sandpaper-like" rash is usually found on the neck, forehead, cheeks and chest and then may spread to the arms and back. The rash usually begins to fade after three to four days.

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