The following information regarding scarlet fever comes from the Public Health, Health Protection Unit. Please keep an eye on your child/children and be aware of the symptoms. If a doctor confirms your child has scarlet fever you are requested to inform school as soon as possible.
Scarlet fever, also called Scarlatina, is an infection that causes a blotchy, pink-red rash. It’s most common in young children, but can affect people of any age. It isn’t usually serious and can be treated with antibiotics from your GP. Once you’ve had it, you’re unlikely to get it again.
Symptoms of scarlet fever develop within a week of being infected.
Early signs include;
- a sore throat
- a headache
- a high temperature (38.3C/101F or above)
- swollen glands in the neck
- This may be followed by a rash on the body, a red face and a white or red tongue
Parents/carers are advised to see their GP if they think their child has scarlet fever, they have symptoms of scarlet fever and if they or their child have been treated for scarlet fever but the symptoms haven’t improved after a week or are getting worse. Treatment with antibiotics is recommended to reduce the length of time the infection is contagious, speed up recovery and reduce the risk of any further problems.
The GP can usually diagnose scarlet fever by looking at the rash. Sometimes they may use a cotton bud to remove a bit of saliva from the throat so it can be tested. Scarlet fever usually clears up within a week, although the skin may peel for a few weeks after the other symptoms have passed.
The infection is contagious from before the symptoms appear until;
- 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment
- up to two or three weeks later if you don’t take antibiotics
Further problems due to scarlet fever are rare, but there’s a small risk of the infection spreading to other parts of the body and causing problems such as an ear infection or lung infection (pneumonia). Contact your GP if you or your child gets any new symptoms that you’re worried about in the weeks after a scarlet fever infection.
Scarlet fever is very contagious. It’s spread in the tiny droplets found in an infected person’s breath, coughs and sneezes. You can be infected if the droplets get into your mouth, nose or eyes – either by being in close contact with an infected person, or by touching something that has droplets on it. In schools and nurseries infections can be spread through direct physical contact between children and staff and through shared contact with physical surfaces such as table tops, taps, and handles. As recommended in the current Guidance on Infection Control in Schools and other Child Care Settings, children and adults with scarlet fever should not return to nursery or school until at least 24 hours after starting treatment with an appropriate antibiotic.
Hand washing remains the most important step in preventing such infections. Children should be encouraged to wash their hands at the start of the school day, after using the toilet, after play, before and after eating, and at the end of the school day. It is important that hands are washed correctly using soap.
Children should be encouraged to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough and sneeze and to wash hands after sneezing and after using or disposing of tissues. Spitting should be discouraged.
What are the risks of scarlet fever during pregnancy?
Scarlet fever is most common in children aged between two and eight, although anyone can catch it. It’s caused by bacteria from the streptococcus (strep) group, which is the same group of bacteria that causes sore throats. Generally, scarlet fever is much less common in the UK than it used to be because strep infections can be treated with antibiotics.
There’s no evidence that catching scarlet fever during your pregnancy will put your baby at risk. However, if you are infected when you give birth, there is a risk your baby may also become infected. Pregnant women who have been diagnosed with scarlet fever will be treated with antibiotics, which are safe to take in pregnancy and labour.
In rare circumstances, strep bacteria can cause severe and life-threatening infections in women who have recently given birth. This happens when the bacteria that cause a sore throat are spread to the genital area. It’s important that women who have recently given birth wash their hands before and after going to the toilet or changing sanitary pads.
Avoiding scarlet fever
Scarlet fever is very infectious and spread by sneezing, coughing or breathing out. It can also be caught from drinking glasses, plates or utensils. To avoid getting scarlet fever it’s best to avoid contact with children who have the infection
What if I get a rash during pregnancy?
If you develop a rash when you’re pregnant, get advice from your GP or midwife straight away so they can diagnose its cause.
Please visit the following websites for further information on scarlet fever symptoms, diagnosis and treatment: