Scarlet Fever is a rare bacterial illness which causes a red-pink rash with the feel of sand paper. It can start in one area but spread to many. It often causes a flushed looking red face which gives rise to the name scarlet fever and is also referred to sometimes in mild forms as scarlatina. It is caused by haemolytic streptococci which is a member of the streptococcus group of bacteria. It most commonly affects children between the ages of four and eight and often affects people who have been in contact with someone with a streptococcal throat or skin infection. Children under two have some immunity from their mothers and children over ten will have developed immunity themselves to the toxins from streptoccal bacteria.
A child can start to show symptoms of scarlet fever within one to seven days of exposure.
- Rash – Your child will often suffer from the other symptoms of scarlet fever as described below for a day or two before the rash appears. The rash generally starts with red blotches which develops into the characteristic pink-red rash which feels like sandpaper. It is often referred to as looking like sunburn. It most commonly starts on the torso and spreads to other areas like the legs, arms and groin areas. The face is generally not affected by the rash itself but does tend to become flushed which can be a distinguishing feature. The rash tends to last around one week and like some other skin infections it can cause peeling of the skin on the hands and feet for a few weeks after.
- High temperature
- Sore throat
- Swollen tongue – with a white coating which will peel leaving the tongue red and tender.
- Nausea/vomiting/loss of appetite
- Swollen neck glands
If you suspect scarlet fever see your GP. They will most likely prescribe a ten day course of an antibiotic called penicillin (or an alternative if your child has an allergy). Using an antibiotic is important in scarlet fever to speed up your childs recovery but also to reduce the length of time that they remain contagious. If they take the antibiotic they will be able to return to childcare after 24 hours but if they do not receive an antibiotic they will remain contagious for one to two weeks after they first developed symptoms. So whilst it is a rare illness in Ireland now and most cases are mild it is still important to seek medical attention if you suspect your child may have Scarlet Fever. Your child may appear better within a day or two of starting treatment but as with all infections it is important to finish the course of antibiotics. If scarlet fever is untreated there is the risk of developing complications such as a throat abscess, ear infection, or pneumonia. Very rarely untreated scarlet fever can result in complications such as blood poisoning, toxic shock syndrome and damage to the kidneys. It is important to seek medical attention if your child’s condition is not improving with treatment of antibiotics.
How to help at home:
Other than the antibiotic treatment you can try to alleviate your child’s symptoms.
- Ensure they do not become dehydrated due to pain in their throat or feeling unwell. Have a read of my dehydration blog here –https://wonderbaba.ie/2015/04/23/a-wonderbaba-guide-to-dehydration/
- Offer them soft food which are easy to swallow – have a read of my sore throat blog here –https://wonderbaba.ie/2015/06/03/sore-throats-in-babies-and-children/
- If they are distressed and have a high temperature you can treat it with paracetamol (Calpol/Paralink) – Have a read of my temperature treatment guide here – https://wonderbaba.ie/2015/01/12/temperatures-what-they-are-and-how-to-treat-them/
- If they are over two years of age you can offer an antihistamine to reduce itch – examples include zirtek oral solution which is non drowsy or Phenergan solution which may cause drowsiness. There is an antihistamine available on prescription from your doctor if your child is aged 1 year.
Women who come in contact with streptococcal infections around their due date should advise their healthcare professionals however there is no evidence to suggest that your baby would be at risk.
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!