Scarlet Fever: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Scarlet Fever?

Scarlet Fever, also known by the name of Scarlatina, is a medical condition characterized by onset of reddish pink rashes. This condition is mostly seen in children. Scarlet Fever was considered to be quite serious previously but with introduction of more new and potent antibiotics treatment and cure has become easier. In fact, Scarlet Fever has now become quite rare even though there is news of some outbreaks at times.[2]

Children most at risk for getting Scarlet Fever fall in the age bracket of 5 and 15 years. The rarity of the condition can be assessed by the data that only around 10% of the common population contract Streptococcal pharyngitis group A and of those only 10% actually develop symptoms of Scarlet Fever. The transmission of this condition is mainly through respiratory particles from an infected individual to an uninfected one.[1]

What is Scarlet Fever?

Scarlet Fever tends to spread more in crowded places like daycare centers, schools, and hostels. The condition is at its peak during the late fall, winter and spring seasons. Scarlet Fever affects mostly children as their immune system is still in the developing stage. However, in adults with a compromised immune system, Scarlet Fever can develop. Another fact about Scarlet Fever is that it very rarely occurs in children below three years of age. By the time, a child enters the teenage years they tend to develop antibodies against the streptococcal toxins which prevent them from developing this condition.[1]

What Causes Scarlet Fever?

Scarlet Fever is caused due to toxins produced by bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes. This is the bacteria that also cause throat infections. There have been some instances where people with a throat infection have gone on to develop Scarlet Fever. Scarlet Fever is contagious and the most common mode of transmission is through secretions from the mouth and nose such as saliva.[2]

A person can pass on the Scarlet Fever infection during coughing or sneezing which causes the bacteria to become airborne and infect others. The infection can also be transmitted when infected droplets land on surfaces like kitchen utensils or furniture and a person touches on it and then touches the nose or mouth. Sharing of clothes is also one of the modes of transmission of the bacteria that causes Scarlet Fever.[2]

An individual with Scarlet Fever who does not get treated will remain contagious for several weeks despite the symptoms fading away. In some cases, an individual will not have any symptoms from the bacteria but will remain carriers of it and pass it on to others. This may be because their body does not react to the toxins released by the bacteria causing Scarlet Fever. In rare cases, eating contaminated food also may cause someone to have Scarlet Fever.[2]

What are the Symptoms of Scarlet Fever?

The symptoms of Scarlet Fever generally begin after about four days of contracting the infection. The infection begins with a sore throat which will have yellow or white patches. There will be high grade fever up to 101 degrees with chills. Within a couple of days after the initial symptoms, there will be development of the distinct rash as seen in Scarlet Fever. These rashes will be red in color to begin with but then slowly change to pinkish red in color. The skin around the rash will become rough. The rash will then spread to other areas like the neck, hands, groin, and the thighs.[2]

Generally, the rash due to Scarlet Fever spares the facial areas but there will be paleness of the mouth. The rash starts fading after about a week. Some of the other symptoms that an individual with Scarlet Fever may experience include.[2]

How Is Scarlet Fever Diagnosed?

The signs and symptoms displayed by the patient are good enough for a definitive diagnosis of Scarlet Fever. However, just to be sure the physician may order a throat swab to check for the presence of the offending bacteria. A blood test may also be ordered at times to confirm the diagnosis of Scarlet Fever.[2]

How is Scarlet Fever Treated?

Mild cases of Scarlet Fever do not require any treatment and resolve on their own within a matter of a week. However, it is recommended that once a diagnosis of Scarlet Fever is made then treatments should be done for it to hasten the recovery process and prevent any complications. The treatment revolves around a minimum of a 10 day course of antibiotics. The fever comes down within a day of the administration of the medications and recovery occurs with a week of the beginning of the medication.

Generally, penicillin is the medication of choice for the treatment of Scarlet Fever but since there are many people who are allergic to it and as an alternative erythromycin can be given. It should be noted here that completion of the course of antibiotics is essential for complete recovery from Scarlet Fever.[2]

If there is no improvement in Scarlet Fever even after 24 hours of administration of the medication then a visit to the emergency room is required for stronger treatment of the condition. Once treatment is started, the contagiousness of Scarlet Fever decreases and within 24 hours the patient no longer remains contagious.[2]

Along with medical treatment, certain strategies at home are also helpful in accelerating the recovery process f Scarlet Fever. During treatment, it is essential for the body to stay hydrated and the patient should drink plenty of fluids. This is also helpful if the patient expresses lack of interest in eating or has no appetite. If the patient complains of pain and discomfort then over the counter pain medications or NSAIDs can be used. Calamine lotion is used for controlling itching caused by the rashes.[2]

While the time the Scarlet Fever patient is contagious, it is best to keep the patient isolated. The clothes worn by the patient and any utensils used should be kept desperately from others to prevent the infection from spreading. The patient should cover the mouth while sneezing and coughing till the time there is complete recovery from Scarlet Fever.[2]

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