Skip to Content
Scarlet fever is a term
strep throat with a rash. Scarlet fever is most common
in children ages 2 to 10, but it can affect people of any age.
Scarlet fever is caused
by streptococcal (strep) bacteria, the same bacteria that cause strep throat.
There are many different strains of strep bacteria, some of which cause more
serious illness than others. The type of strep that infects the throat and
causes scarlet fever is called group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus
The symptoms of scarlet
fever are the same as the symptoms of strep throat (except for the rash). If
you or your child has the symptoms below, call your doctor. Symptoms
Other symptoms that appear before the rash, especially in
children, may include general body aches, headache, stomachache, nausea,
vomiting, or listlessness. Scarlet fever usually doesn't occur with cold
symptoms, such as sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, or cough.
more information on strep throat, see the topic
The most noticeable symptom
of scarlet fever is a rough, red rash that feels like fine sandpaper. The rash
usually appears 24 hours after the fever starts. The rash begins on the chest
and abdomen and then spreads over the rest of the body within 1 to 2 days. The
rash and redness are more apparent in skin folds, especially in the groin,
armpits, and elbow creases. It usually fades in about a week, and at that time
the skin may begin to peel.
After the skin starts to peel, bright
red spots may appear on the tongue, giving it an appearance called "strawberry
scarlet fever is usually based on a medical history, an examination of the
throat, and a rapid strep test or throat culture to test for strep bacteria.
One or both of these tests are needed to confirm infection with strep bacteria.
Scarlet fever and the strep
infection that causes it are treated with antibiotics.
Complications of scarlet fever include
infection of the middle ear,
pneumonia. In rare cases, a more serious infection may
develop, such as
rheumatic fever or
rheumatic heart disease. Most cases of scarlet fever
can be cured without any permanent complications.
Other Works Consulted
American Public Health Association (2008). Streptococcal diseases caused by group A (beta hemolytic) streptococci. In DL Heymann, ed., Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, 19th ed., pp. 577–587. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association.
Ogle W et al. (2014). Infections: Bacterial and
spirochetal. In WW Hay Jr, et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 1283–1352. New York: McGraw-Hill.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineJohn Pope, MD - PediatricsSpecialist Medical ReviewerDonald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology
Current as ofNovember 20, 2015
Current as of:
November 20, 2015
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
© Copyright 2017 Rush-Copley Medical Center • 2000 Ogden Avenue; Aurora, IL 60504
Main: 630-978-6200 • Physician Referral & Information: 630-978-6700 or 866-4COPLEY (866-426-7539)