Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection of the tonsils (tonsillitis), accompanied by a red skin rash.

Overview

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection of the tonsils (tonsillitis), accompanied by a red skin rash. It is a typical childhood illness but can in some few cases also affect adults. The disease is almost always treated with antibiotics.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

  • Sore throat and headache
  • Coughing
  • Red back of throat and pain when swallowing
  • High fever
  • Pink-red skin rash which starts on the body and throat and then spreads to the legs and arms
    • Frequently, no rash around the mouth and chin
    • Scaling can occur after a few days, in particular on the palms and soles of the feet

Other symptoms

Complications

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Group A streptococci bacteria
    • The same pathogen that causes “tonsillitis”
    • Certain strains produce toxins (exotoxins) that also cause a skin rash

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Quick test to identify the bacteria (swab)
  • Blood test (inflammatory markers)
Possible therapies
  • Antibiotics
  • Painkillers

What can I do myself?

  • Bed rest
  • Gargle (e.g. with sage tea)
  • Cold throat compresses (e.g. quark, lemon, onion poultices)
  • Milk with honey

When to see a doctor?

  • Fever of higher than 40 degrees
  • Light-headedness, cramps, stiff neck
  • Bleeding into the skin (dark red spots)

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