Scarlet fever, also known as scarlatina, is a bacterial infection caused by group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal infection. This disease commonly affects children though there are cases that proved that it could affect adults as well. The bacterium that causes scarlet fever produces exotoxin by which the body of the infected person reacts badly. It could lead to streptococcal toxic shock syndrome if not treated immediately.
Who gets scarlet fever?
A long time ago, scarlet fever became a common childhood illness and even got to an epidemic level. Due to the development of antibiotics, cases of scarlet fever today have been so rare that it could not be seen in the clinical area already. Complications relating to scarlet fever have significantly diminished since the usage of antibiotics.
Scarlet fever commonly affects children ages 4-8 years of age. Children under 2 years old still have anti-exotoxin antibodies which they acquired from their mother thus they are less likely to acquire scarlet fever. About 80% of children ages 10 years old and above were seen to develop lifelong protective antibodies against streptococcal toxins.
What is the scarlet fever incubation period?
A child can get infected with scarlet by direct contact with the secretions of children having scarlet fever. Droplets in the air can also serve as a way to transmit the bacterium. The incubation period, i.e., the time the child is infected until the time the first symptom appears, is about three to eight days.
Symptoms of scarlet fever are as follows: a sore throat, fever, “strawberry tongue” or bright red tongue, and rash. The rash is fine, color red, rough and blanches when pressure is applied. The rash starts on the chest, then on the armpits and then behind the ears. The rash usually appears 12-48 hours after the fever. After the rashes fade, desquamation or peeling begins and it can be seen on the face, palms, fingers, axilla, groin, and toes.
Diagnosing scarlet fever
Diagnostics for scarlet fever includes blood tests which reveal leukocytosis with neutrophilia and increased eosinophils. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is high and so as C-reactive protein. There is also an elevation in the antistreptolysin O titer. Throat culture reveals positive for strep infection. Aside from laboratory works, signs and symptoms of scarlet fever could also help in the diagnosis.
What is the treatment for scarlet fever?
Treatment for scarlet fever is the same as treating any strep throat infection. Penicillin antibiotic is widely used however those who are allergic to such could have clindamycin or erythromycin as a replacement. After a 24 hour antibiotic therapy, the person with scarlet fever is no longer infectious. Many of the symptoms of scarlet fever can be relieved using some simple self-care measures, such as:
- Drink plenty of cool, hydrating drinks to soothe your painful throat and ensure that you remain hydrated;
- Eat soft foods so as not to irritate your painful throat, and gargle with salt water or other mouthwash to disinfect it;
- Take paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen for a headache and to bring down a high temperature;
- Use calamine lotion, cortisone creme or antihistamine tablets to relieve itching.
Complications of scarlet fever are as follows: rheumatic fever, pneumonia, otitis media, septicemia, osteomyelitis, glomerulonephritis and even death if left untreated.