Is Scarlet Fever Dangerous & How Long Does Scarlet Fever Last?

Scarlet fever also referred to as scarlatina, is an illness that may develop in people having strep throat. Its characteristics are red rashes on the body along with a sore throat and high fever. This disease mainly affects the children aged between 5 to 15 years. The streptococcus bacteria cause the bright red rash. It was considered a serious illness. The antibiotic treatments, however, has helped in speedy recovery of the patients.

Is Scarlet Fever Dangerous & How Long Does Scarlet Fever Last?

Is Scarlet Fever Dangerous?

Scarlet fever was earlier considered as a very dangerous illness. However, with the advancement of science and research in the medical field, scarlet fever is not considered dangerous any more. It can be controlled and well-treated with antibiotic medicines.

In about 80 percent of the cases, scarlet fever occurs mainly in children under the age of 10 years. However, people of all ages can get the ailment. It is a highly contagious disease, so it can affect any person who remains in close contact with people suffering from scarlet fever. Outbreaks frequently happen in the schools and the nurseries wherein children stay in close contact with each other. People may catch scarlet fever more than one time though it is rare.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms of Scarlet Fever?

A rash is a common sign of scarlet fever for both the adults and children. It starts with a red rash and then it becomes rough like sandpaper. The scarlet rash gives scarlet fever its name. The rash may begin prior to 2 or 3 days before the person becomes ill or may occur even after seven days. The rash in scarlet fever starts on the groin, neck, and under the arms. Thereafter, it spreads to the other parts of the body. The folds of the elbows, armpits, and the knees also become dark red than the skin around it. Once the rash subsides after a week, the skin on the toes, the fingers, and the groin can peel. This may remain for several weeks.

How Long Does Scarlet Fever Last?

Scarlet fever usually lasts for about a week. However, one may stay infected 7 days prior to the beginning of symptoms and till –

  • 24 hours after taking the first antibiotic, or
  • 2 weeks after the beginning of the symptoms, in case you do not take any antibiotics.

Scarlet fever can be treated with an antibiotics course of 10 days. This may be in the form of amoxicillin or penicillin tablets, though liquid can be used in young children. In case of people who remain allergic to penicillin, alternative antibiotics like erythromycin may be used. The fever becomes better after 24 hours of taking the antibiotics. The other symptoms begin to disappear within a span of a few days. It is important to complete the full course before the infection is completely cleared.

It is advisable to keep your child away from school or nursery for a minimum period of 24 hours after you begin the antibiotic treatment. The adults suffering from scarlet fever should stay away from work for 24 hours after the beginning of the treatment.

Complications of Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever mostly affects children, but you may even get the fever if you remain in close contact with infected people. In the majority of cases, the symptoms of scarlet fever-like rash go away within 10 days to 2 weeks with antibiotics. Many people may not experience complications; however, the following serious complications may occur:

  • Ear infection like otitis media
  • Pneumonia
  • Sinusitis
  • Throat abscess
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Inflammation of the kidney or a prolonged kidney disease
  • Skin infections.

The following complications are rare but possible:

Some studies have revealed that a streptococcal bacterial infection can trigger an autoimmune response that can worsen the symptoms of childhood disorders. It includes Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

There is no evidence that suggests that scarlet fever at the time of pregnancy can cause harm to your baby. It may make you unwell, so always avoid close contact with infected people. The antibiotics given to treat scarlet fever are safe to take while you are pregnant.


Call the doctor when a person develops a rash, particularly when he or she has a sore throat, fever, or swollen glands. This is very important when an individual develops the symptoms of scarlet fever. People can protect themselves from scarlet fever by practicing a good hygiene. It includes covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing, frequent washing of hands, using sanitizers, etc.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 20, 2019

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