Scarlet fever is an infection with streptococcal bacteria. These are the same bacteria that cause strep throat. It is spread on droplets that travel through the air when a person coughs. Symptoms include throat pain that is worse with swallowing. A rash may develop. The rash usually appears a few days after the sore throat. It looks like tiny raised pink dots with a rough feeling like sandpaper. You may also have headache, body aches, and a fever. Untreated, the streptococcal bacteria can spread to other parts of the body, causing blood stream infection, pneumonia, and other complications. Untreated, scarlet fever can also lead to rheumatic fever, a condition of the heart, nervous system, and other parts of the body.
Antibiotics are used to treat the infection. You may start feeling better after a few days of treatment. The rash usually clears after 4 to 5 days. The skin may peel (like a bad sunburn) in 1 to 2 weeks.
Rest at home for at least the first few days.
Be sure to take the antibiotic medicines as directed until they are gone or the healthcare provider tells you to stop, even if you are feeling better. This is very important to prevent later problems from strep infection (such as heart or kidney disease).
Fever increases water loss from the body. Drink plenty of fluids.
Ask your healthcare provider before taking any over-the-counter medicines.
Stay home from work or school until you have finished at least 2 days of antibiotics, no longer have a fever, and are feeling better.
Use throat lozenges as needed to help reduce throat pain. Gargling with warm salt water may also help. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 1 glass of warm water.
Follow up with your healthcare provider or our staff as directed.
Call your healthcare provider right away for any of the following:
Fever as directed by the healthcare provider
Throat pain or headache that is getting worse
Neck pain or stiffness
Dark purple rash
Blood in the urine
Joint pain or swelling
Call 911 if any of these occur:
Throat pain causing severe drooling, inability to swallow, or inability to open mouth wide
Unusual drowsiness or confusion
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