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Diseases & Conditions

Scarlet fever

Scarlet feverCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Scarlet fever?

Scarlet fever signifies a disease that is caused when the microbe Streptococcus pyogenes release a toxin termed exotoxin into the body system. Scarlet fever is also known as scarlatina, although it is more commonly used to refer to the less serious type of scarlet fever that has made its appearance since the turn of the 20th century.

Causes of scarlet fever

  • Whenever a person infected with scarlet fever sneezes or coughs, the strep microbes become airborne and infect others other persons by inhaling the same. The strep bacteria can be also present on those things that an infected person happens to touch like a door-knob or any drinking glass.
  • Scarlet fever bacteria might contaminate food too, particularly milk, although this type of transmission is not very common.
  • Strep microbes causing scarlet fever can also spread from an individual to another from fluids present in the nose and mouth of a patient.
  • The type of Streptococcal bacteria that attacks one’s throat resulting in scarlet fever is termed GABS or group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus.

Unless treated in time, a person affected by scarlet fever can remain contagious for some weeks following the passing of the disease.

Medications for scarlet fever

Treatment of scarlet fever comprises mainly of antibiotics. If the patient is allergic to penicillin other antibiotics such as erythromycin as also clinamycin might be used with much success.

Prevention of scarlet fever

The microbial infection resulting in scarlet fever is highly contagious. Ordinarily, there are no effective ways to evade such infections. When a patient is at home, it is better to follow these prevention methods:

  • Keep the patient's drinking glasses as well as eating utensils, out of bounds to the other members of the family
  • Wash the glasses and utensils thoroughly soap and hot water
  • Any person caring for the patient infected with scarlet fever should wash his/her hands as frequently as possible.
  • Do not let the other members in the family come into direct contact with the infected patient

Risk factors of scarlet fever

With appropriate treatment, risk factors of scarlet fever are rare but might include…

  • Joint or bone conditions like arthritis and osteomyelitis
  • Severe rheumatic fever
  • Adenitis, a glandular inflammation or abscess
  • Damage to the kidneys in the form of glomerulonephritis
  • Hepatitis or liver damage
  • Meningitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Sinusitis
  • Infection of the middle ear
  • Septicaemia

Symptoms of scarlet fever

The duration between getting infected and the appearance of the symptoms is usually very short, ranging generally from 1 to 2 days. Typically, the disease begins with a sore throat as well as fever.

The rash that is the main characteristic of scarlet fever appears usually on the chest and neck and goes on to spread all over the body. It is said the rash has a ‘sandpapery’ feel. In order to confirm the diagnosis, the sandy texture of such rash is of more importance than the presence of the same. After remaining on the body for a week or so, the rash disappears and peeling or desquamation might follow around the patient’s groin area, toes as well as the fingertips.

Apart from these, the following symptoms can also be evident.

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Pastia’s lines or the presence of bright red creases of both the groin and the underarm
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Malaise or general discomfort
  • Head and muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Red swollen tongue or strawberry tongue

Treatment for scarlet fever

If rash is present on the body and the physician feels that it is scarlet fever, he/she will take a sample throat culture for laboratory tests. If found positive, the doctor will recommend antibiotic treatment for around ten days. This treatment improves the patient’s condition within 12 to 24 hours. The recovery takes place in 4 to 5 days. It might take some weeks to cure the tonsils and the swollen glands and bring them back to normal. It is vital that the patient completes the whole course of the prescribed antibiotics. Actually, antibiotics are used to destroy the bacteria that infect the throat as it is crucial in order to avert rheumatic fever, a severe complication of scarlet fever.

Types of scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is not further classified into types.