Scarlet fever, an infection most common in children, is at a 50 year high. More than 17,000 cases were reported in 2016.
Given that it’s most likely to affect children under the age of ten, and because it’s high infection, parents need to know what to watch out for and how to react if their child shows signs of Scarlet fever.
What is Scarlet fever
Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection. It’s usually not extremely serious, but it is very contagious.
It’s caused by bacteria known as group A streptococcus.
It’s spread through close contact with people carrying streptococcus – often in the throat – or through contact with objects and surfaces contaminated with the bacterium.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms often include a sore throat, headache and fever, accompanied by a red rash that is rough to the touch (sometimes described as ‘like sandpaper’).
The rash is the most recogisable symptom and is often what alerts a parent to their child’s illness.
How is it treated?
Before the advent of antibiotics the infection was almost fatal, but these days it’s usually easily treated with a course of antibiotics.
While taking antibiotics the infected person will need to rest, drink lots of fluids and might want to take paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Scarlet fever remains infectious for 24 hours after the ill person starts taking antibiotics or between two and three weeks without antibiotics.
How serious is it?
As long as you go to the doctor, not very. There is a small chance of it causing other complications like an ear infection or occasionally pneumonia. But if you go to the doctor and get antibiotics it will usually clear up quickly and without any permanent damage.
How can you avoid spreading it?
The NHS recommend that you keep your child away from nursery or school for at least 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment – adults should stay off work for at least 24 hours after starting treatment.
They also suggest that you can prevent the spread of infection if you cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – throw away used tissues immediately, wash your hands with soap and water often, especially after using or disposing of tissue and avoid sharing utensils, cups and glasses, clothes, baths, bed linen, towels or toys.