Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection that most commonly affects children between the ages of 5 and 15. The bacteria group A Streptococcus causes the condition. This is the same bacteria that causes strep throat. Scarlet fever is treatable with antibiotics. Early diagnosis and treatment reduce the risk of potential complications associated with the condition. Fever, sore throat, chills, and vomiting may be early symptoms of scarlet fever. A rash may appear on the neck and chest at first and then spread across the body. After the red rash, the skin may blister and peel, especially on the extremities.
What causes Scarlet Fever
Scarlet fever is caused by infection with exotoxin-producing group A beta-hemolytic streptococci (GABHS), notably Streptococcus pyogenes. The release of a particular toxin is responsible for the characteristic scarlet-colored rash seen with scarlet fever (giving the disease its name). In the majority of cases, scarlet fever occurs as a result of a pharyngeal streptococcal infection (strep throat), though it can less commonly occur as result of streptococcal infections at other sites, such as the skin. It is estimated that scarlet fever develops in up to 10% of individuals who develop streptococcal pharyngitis.
Scarlet fever can occur at any time of the year, though it is more common during the winter and spring. The streptococcal bacterium is typically spread via airborne respiratory droplets transmitted by infected individuals or by individuals who carry the bacteria but do not experience any symptoms (asymptomatic carriers). Streptococcal infections can also be transmitted by coming in direct contact with infected secretions and rarely by food-borne outbreaks. Transmission is enhanced in crowded environments in which individuals come in close contact with each other (for example, schools or day-care centers).
Home remedies for scarlet fever
After being diagnosed with scarlet fever, there are various measures that can help alleviate the symptoms and hasten recovery at home. The vast majority of cases of scarlet fever can be managed at home unless the rare serious complications of the disease develop.
- Individuals with scarlet fever can take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) for pain control and fever reduction.
- Adequate rest and increased fluid intake are also important for promoting a more rapid recovery.
- If pharyngitis is present, various throat lozenges can provide temporary relief for a minor sore throat. Gargling with warm saltwater may also be helpful.
Follow-up treatment for Scarlet Fever
- A follow-up visit with your health-care provider is recommended to make sure that your recovery is complete and without complications. If you have been diagnosed with scarlet fever and you are not improving or if your symptoms are worsening, you must consult your health-care provider promptly.
- Immediate treatment with an antibiotic after a positive rapid strep test may not always make you well faster, but it will shorten the time you are able to spread the disease to others. Antibiotics also lower the risk of the infection spreading to other parts of your body. There is no harm in delaying medicine treatment 1 to 2 days to wait for the results of a throat culture. Antibiotics will prevent rheumatic fever even if it is started up to 9 days after symptoms begin.
How to prevent Scarlet Fever
People can get scarlet fever more than once, so having the infection does not protect you from getting it again in the future. While there is no vaccine to prevent scarlet fever, there are things you can do to protect yourself and others.
The best preventative measure against scarlet fever is early and appropriate treatment with antibiotics for group A streptococcal infection. This will significantly decrease or eliminate an individual’s chances of developing scarlet fever. The introduction and widespread use of antibiotics has been the most important factor in diminishing the cases of scarlet fever.
Treatment involves avoiding close contact with those who are contagious. Children should be kept out of school or daycare until they have been on antibiotics for 24 hours. Most people are no longer contagious 24 hours after starting the antibiotic. We also recommend getting a new toothbrush for children after they are no longer contagious but before they finish the antibiotics, to prevent re-infection.
The best way to keep from getting or spreading scarlet fever is to wash your hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing and before preparing foods or eating. To practice good hygiene you should:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- Put your used tissue in the waste basket
- Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands, if you don’t have a tissue
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available
You should also wash glasses, utensils, and plates after someone who is sick uses them. After they have been washed, these items are safe for others to use.
Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. If clean, running water is not accessible, as is common in many parts of the world, use soap and available water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean hands.
When you should wash your hands:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
How should you wash your hands?
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them in most situations. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals.
Hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
- Apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
- Rub your hands together.
- Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
Coughing & Sneezing
Hygiene etiquette involves practices that prevent the spread of illness and disease. A critical time to practice good hygiene etiquette is when you are sick, especially when coughing or sneezing. Serious respiratory illnesses like influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are spread by:
- Coughing or sneezing
- Unclean hands
- Touching your face after touching contaminated objects
- Touching objects after contaminating your hands
To help stop the spread of germs:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Put your used tissue in a waste basket.
- If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
Remember to wash your hands after coughing or sneezing. Cough etiquette is especially important for infection control measures in healthcare settings, such as emergency departments, doctor’s offices, and clinics.
One final practice that helps prevent the spread of respiratory disease is avoiding close contact with people who are sick. If you are ill, you should try to distance yourself from others so you do not spread your germs. Distancing includes staying home from work or school when possible.
Someone with scarlet fever is usually not able to spread the bacteria to others after they have taken the correct antibiotic for 24 hours or longer. If you are diagnosed with scarlet fever, you should stay home from work, school, or daycare until you no longer have a fever and have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours so you don’t spread the infection to others.
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