Scarlet fever is caused by the same strep infection that causes strep throat. Streptococcus releases a toxin into the body. Some children are sensitive to the toxin and other children are not. Sensitivity does not appear to be genetic, so one child may develop scarlet fever from strep throat and other children may not. Skin infections caused by strep bacteria, like impetigo, may also cause scarlet fever.
Scarlet fever generally starts out with a low-grade fever and swollen glands (in the neck.) The signature rash generally looks like a sunburn, at first, but soon red bumps appear. The rash may spread across the chest, back, face and trunk. The mouth and chin areas are not generally affected by a scarlet fever rash. Creases of the body, like behind the knees, may develop red streaks. After the rash fades, skin may remain infected for three to four days; peeling away in the process. Other common symptoms include a white coating on the mouth and tongue, chills, aches, pains and vomiting.
How Long Does Scarlet Fever Last?
The duration of the condition will vary from one child to the next, but it generally takes 10 days for all symptoms to disappear and up to three weeks for lymph nodes to return to normal size. Most children can fight off scarlet fever without medical intervention, but antibiotics may speed up the process; healing in just 10 days.
Treating Scarlet Fever
Scarlet fever is a reaction based on a strep infection; either of the skin or throat. The body can fight off most strep infections, so medications are not needed in all cases. Scarlet fever is contagious, however, so infected children should be kept out of school until all symptoms have resolved.
Symptoms of strep throat, the most common cause of scarlet fever, can be treated with over the counter and homeopathic treatments. Ice cream and other cold foods and beverages may reduce throat pain. Fever reducers control fever and relieve pain associated with the condition.
Contacting Your Pediatrician
Though the condition does not require medication, your child's pediatrician should be notified if you feel your child has symptoms of strep throat or scarlet fever. The condition can be monitored closely and your doctor can give personalized treatment options.