Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is a bacterial illness that develops in some people who have strep throat. Also known as scarlatina, scarlet fever features a bright red rash that covers most of the body. Scarlet fever is almost always accompanied by a sore throat and a high fever. It is a disease that mainly affects young children. 


APPOTEK can help you with scarlet fever.


Scarlet fever is caused by a special type of streptococcus (the same type of bacteria that cause strep throat.) In scarlet fever, the bacteria release a toxin that produces the rash and red tongue. Some only get a sore throat, while others get the red bumpy rash, which appears if the bacteria start to form so-called exotoxin. The disease is not very common and mainly affects children between 3 and 8 years. 


Scarlet fever is very contagious and spreads from person to person via droplets expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 


Infectiousness decreases rapidly after a few days of antibiotic treatment.


The incubation period – the time between the exposure to an infection and the first symptoms appearance – is usually between 2-4 days, sometimes up to a week. Some children do not get any symptoms. The symptoms are the same for children and adults, although scarlet fever is much rarer in adults.


The first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature of 38C or above, a sore throat and swollen neck glands (a large lump on the side of your neck). Children may also have nausea/vomiting or abdominal pain


A rash appears a few days later.


The tongue is first covered by a yellow-white fir, and then it becomes red and bumpy. This is called strawberry tongue.


The first bumps – small red dots – can be found in the armpits and at the groin. The dots can spread and cover almost the entire body. But there is no rash around the mouth, where the skin stays pale.


The rash usually disappears after 2-4 weeks. When it fades, it often peels – this is especially evident on the palms and soles of the feet.

Prevention and protection

Practicing good hygiene is the best way to prevent scarlet fever. Here are some prevention tips to follow and to teach your children:


  • Wash hands before meals and after using the restroom.
  • Wash hands anytime you cough or sneeze.
  • Cover mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
  • Don’t share utensils and drinking glasses with others, especially in group settings.


If your child has a  fever, it is important they get enough fluids. Cool drinks may be soothing for a sore throat. If your child is feeling bad because of the fever, there are non-prescription fever-reducing medicines you can get at the pharmacy.


Scarlet fever is treated with antibiotics after the analysis is done to ensure the diagnosis. These will:


  • help you get better quicker
  • reduce the risk of serious illnesses, such as pneumonia
  • make it less likely that you’ll pass the infection on to someone else


Your child can attend school after the treatment course, if the symptoms have passed.

When to consult a doctor

You should consult a doctor if you or your child has scarlet fever symptoms. Also seek medical help if you:


  • do not get better in a week after diagnosis and treatment, especially if your child has recently had chickenpox
  • are ill again weeks after scarlet fever has cleared up – this can be a sign of a complication, such as rheumatic fever. 
  • are feeling unwell and have been in contact with someone who has scarlet fever


Scarlet fever is very infectious. Check with a GP before you go in. They may suggest a phone consultation.

How APPOTEK can help

Appotek can help you with scarlet fever. A nurse or doctor will make an individual assessment based on your symptoms, then may prescribe treatment or refer you for further examination.


Valeria Chernikova, Neurologist, M.D.