Scarlet Fever

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Wednesday, 17 July 2019
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Dear parents

I am emailing to inform you that we have had a suspected case of scarlet fever in the nursery. As there seems to be a growing number of children locally that are suffering with high temperatures at the moment it seemed prudent to let you know the symptoms for you to look out for.

Please do not be alarmed. You will see from the information below it is a common childhood illness and generally not serious.

Please do not hesitate to speak to us if you have any questions.

Kind regards

Elaine Caffary


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.

The 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 and being sick.

This may be followed by a rash on the body, a red face and a white or red tongue:

The scarlet fever rash usually starts on the chest or tummy, before spreading to other areas

It is made up of pink-red blotches that may join up and feels like sandpaper (this may be the most obvious sign in someone with dark skin.) It may be brightest red in body folds, such as the armpits or elbows and will turn white if you press a glass on it

The rash doesn't usually spread to the face, but the cheeks may turn very red. This may look a bit like sunburn.

The area around the mouth usually stays pale with a characteristic white or red tongue. Sometimes a white coating may form on the tongue. This peels away after a few days, leaving the tongue red and swollen.

See your GP or call NHS 111 as soon as possible if:

  • you think your child has scarlet fever
  • you or your 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.

Your GP will prescribe antibiotics to take for five or 10 days.

Your child should start feeling better after a day or two, but make sure you finish the whole course of treatment.

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.

There's no evidence to suggest that getting scarlet fever during pregnancy will harm your baby. But it can make you feel unwell, so it's best to avoid close contact with anyone who has it.

If you do get symptoms of scarlet fever, see your GP for treatment.

The antibiotics used for scarlet fever are usually safe to take during pregnancy.


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