Scarlet Fever: Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention Measures

Scarlet Fever: Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention Measures

Scarlet Fever, sometimes referred to as scarlatina, is an infectious condition brought on by bacteria known as group A Streptococcus, or group A strep, because these germs are also responsible for causing strep throat. Occasionally, the bacteria produce a toxin, or poison, that results in the “scarlet” rash known as scarlet fever. Children between the ages of five and fifteen are most typically affected, but the condition can affect individuals of any age.

How Scarlet Fever Spreads:

Group A strep bacteria are highly contagious and typically transmitted through:

Respiratory droplets

Inhale respiratory droplets containing the bacteria.

Touch a surface contaminated with these droplets and subsequently touch their mouth or nose.

Share a glass or consume food from the same plate as a person infected with group A strep.

Direct contact

Touch the skin sores caused by group A strep (impetigo).

Come into contact with fluid from these sores.

In rare cases, improper handling of food can also lead to the spread of group A strep bacteria.

The incubation period for individuals exposed to group A strep bacteria is usually two to five days before they manifest symptoms of strep throat or scarlet fever, so it’s important to monitor for any signs of illness during this time.


Several symptoms of scarlet fever overlap with other infections. These can encompass:

  • Fever (101°F or higher) or chills
  • Sore throat with discomfort during swallowing
  • Headache or body aches
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea or vomiting

The distinctive signs and symptoms associated with scarlet fever include:

Red rash:Resembling sunburn and feeling like sandpaper, the rash typically starts on the face or neck and then spreads to the trunk, arms, and legs. Pressing on the reddened skin makes it turn pale, so this characteristic helps identify scarlet fever. It’s essential to recognize these symptoms early because prompt medical attention can be crucial in managing the condition effectively.

Red lines:The skin folds in areas such as the groin, armpits, elbows, knees, and neck usually exhibit a deeper red hue compared to other regions with the rash because of increased friction and warmth.

Flushed face: The face may display a flushed appearance with a pale ring around the mouth.

Strawberry tongue:The tongue typically appears red and bumpy, and it’s often covered with a white coating in the early stages of the disease, so these visual indicators can help in identifying the presence of scarlet fever.

Physical Signs on Tongue, Throat, and Neck

Observable signs in these regions:

  • Early in the illness, a whitish coating on the tongue
  • A tongue that appears “strawberry” – red and bumpy.
  • A very red throat
  • Red and swollen tonsils
  • Tiny red spots on the roof of the mouth, known as petechiae
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck

Rash on the skin

Scarlet fever  rash symptoms include:

  • Rash that is red and has a sandpaper-like texture

  • Redness in the groin, elbow, and underarm creases

  • A pale region surrounding the mouth

  • Peeling skin as the rash goes away

Typically, one to two days after the onset of illness, a red rash emerges. However, it can manifest before the illness or up to seven days later.

When to Consult a Physician?

Seek advice from your healthcare professional if your child experiences a sore throat accompanied by a fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher, swollen or tender glands in the neck, or a red rash. These symptoms could indicate various conditions, and timely consultation is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate medical intervention.


When left untreated, the bacteria associated with scarlet fever can extend to the following areas:

  • Tonsils
  • Skin
  • Blood
  • Middle ear
  • Sinuses
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Joints
  • Muscles


In addition to performing a physical examination, your doctor will question you about symptoms and look for group A strep germs. They will often conduct a quick strep test, which involves testing the sample after swabbing the throat. This procedure is crucial because it helps in swift and accurate diagnosis, guiding the appropriate course of action for treatment.


There isn’t a vaccine for scarlet fever. The most effective preventive measures for scarlet fever align with general precautions against infections:

Practice good hand hygiene by demonstrating thorough handwashing with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds to your child. In the absence of soap and water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used because it helps kill germs effectively and ensures proper hand cleanliness. Consistent hand hygiene is essential, and these practices contribute to preventing the spread of infections and maintaining overall health.

Avoid sharing dining utensils or food. Instruct your child not to share drinking glasses or eating utensils with friends or classmates, including sharing food

Cover your mouth and nose, and instruct your child to do the same while coughing and sneezing. This practice is essential because it minimizes the potential spread of germs, helping to create a healthier environment and reduce the risk of infections.


Antibiotics are used as a treatment by physicians for scarlet fever because they eliminate the bacteria causing the infection, reducing the duration of illness and symptoms. Additionally, they help prevent the spread of the infection and the development of complications.



For a comprehensive understanding of scarlet fever, you can watch the informative video of Dr. C. Suman Kumar, a Pediatrician at Ankura Hospital’s Boduppal branch. If you have any concerns or suspect scarlet fever, don’t hesitate to consult Ankura Hospitals for expert guidance and healthcare support. Remember, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment play a crucial role in managing scarlet fever effectively, so seeking timely medical advice is essential for a better outcome.

Ankura Hospital
Author: Ankura Hospital

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