Scarlet fever (also called scarlatina) is an illness that happens when you have a lot of the bacteria streptococcus pyogenes. It can be serious if not treated quickly. It was a common childhood disease in the 18th and 19th centuries, but it has been much less common since penicillin became available.
Symptoms of the illness include a sore throat, chills, and a rash. The rash has a sunburn or goose pimples look and feels rough, like sandpaper. It starts on the trunk, underarms, and groin, then spreads to the limbs. After a week, it gets flaky and peels. The rash may also be on the tongue, gums, and inside of the cheeks.
Scarlet Fever Unveiled: Understanding Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention
If you think your child has scarlet fever, call your doctor right away. Your doctor will do a physical exam and a throat swab to check for the bacteria. The quick test, called a rapid strep test, can tell if strep throat is causing the illness right away. If the result is negative, your doctor may do a throat culture, which takes longer but can find infections that the rapid test misses.
Your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics. The antibiotic most often used is penicillin, but doctors also use other kinds of antibiotics. If your child is allergic to penicillin, the doctor may give him or her a different antibiotic, such as azithromycin, clindamycin, or erythromycin. After a 10-day course of antibiotics, the symptoms of scarlet fever usually go away.