ABC Medical Center > Scarlet fever

What is Scarlet fever?

21:54 - 4 May , 2021


It is an infectious disease caused by type A streptococcus bacteria, the same one that causes pharyngitis, which mainly affects children under 10 years old.

You can get infected through fluid droplets emitted when coughing, sneezing, or talking, which can be inhaled or by falling on a surface if someone makes contact with them and then touches their lips, nose, or eyes because the bacteria remain active for hours.

Places where there is a high concentration of people, such as schools and daycare centers, can increase the risk of spreading the infection.

Signs and symptoms Scarlet fever

The characteristic symptoms begin to manifest one or two days after infection and include:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Headache.
  • Sore muscles.
  • Redness and swelling of the tongue.
  • Reddish rash, mainly in the folds found in the armpits, elbows, and groin.
  • Chills.
  • Irritated and sore throat.
  • General discomfort.
  • Nausea.
  • High fever.
  • Vomit.

In general, the rash appears first on the neck and chest and then spreads throughout the body, forming a rough texture similar to sandpaper. The outbreak can last for more than a week, and as it begins to subside, the skin around the tips of the fingers and toes, as well as in the groin, may flake or peel. There are four phases of the scarlet fever bacterial infection and they can last from 20 to 30 days:

  • Incubation: after infection, the bacteria takes about five days to incubate.
  • General symptoms: it is the early stage of the disease where the symptoms begin to manifest. It lasts one day.
  • Exacerbation of symptoms.
  • Scaling: can last several weeks.

Potential risks:

Scarlet fever is a mild disease, but if it is not treated in time it can trigger a series of serious complications, such as:

  • Cervical adenitis.
  • Kidney damage.
  • Liver damage.
  • Rheumatic fever, which can affect the brain, heart, and joints.
  • Laryngitis.
  • Tonsillitis.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Sinusitis.
  • Swollen or abscessed lymph nodes.
  • Osteomyelitis.
  • Otitis.

Diagnosis and treatment Scarlet fever

Once your doctor analyzes your symptoms and clinical history, they will perform a physical examination and request blood tests and a throat swab to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment consists of drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and taking painkillers and anti-inflammatories to reduce symptoms, along with antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria causing the infection and avoid major complications that put your health at risk.

Although there is no vaccine to prevent scarlet fever, practicing good hand hygiene, especially after coughing or sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before preparing food, helps prevent strep infections.

At ABC Medical Center’s Internal Medicine Department, we offer health care services with the highest quality and safety, from the prevention, diagnosis, timely treatment, and monitoring of infectious, respiratory, endocrinological, dermatological, rheumatic, nephrological, gastrointestinal, and hematological pathologies of both chronic-degenerative diseases and acute conditions, through a comprehensive and multidisciplinary model.


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  • cdc.gov
  • cun.es
  • mayoclinic.org
  • medlineplus.gov
  • medigraphic.com
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