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Scarlet Fever: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, and Treatment

Bacterial infections can make life miserable triggering a host of complications and discomfort. One such medical condition that is mainly triggered by a bacterial infection is Scarlet Fever. Scarlet Fever, which is also known as Scarlatina is a bacterial infection triggered by group A Streptococcus bacteria (Streptococcus pyogenes). S. pyogenes are Gram-positive bacteria that thrive within the human nasal passage and mouth region. Though incidences of Scarlet Fever has seen a significant drop in the last decade or two, children aged between 5 to 15 (adults can also be affected) years are more susceptible to the condition.

Though Scarlet Fever can affect any individual, the incidences are somewhat higher in people with Streptococcal Pharyngitis (a bacterial infection affecting the oropharynx triggered by Streptococcus pyogenes. Also known as Strep Throat, Streptococcal Pharyngitis primarily results in a sore throat, fever, along with nausea, vomiting, a headache or abdominal pain). Scarlet Fever can also affect people suffering from skin infections triggered by Streptococcus bacteria. 


One of the characteristic symptoms of Scarlet Fever is the appearance of a rash. The rash that appears first on the abdomen and the chest is scarlet colored (and hence the name, Scarlet Fever) and looks like one caused by a sunburnt. The scarlet rash that usually lasts for 2-7 days then eventually spreads to other parts of the body. Some of the other symptoms exhibited by an individual suffering from Scarlet Fever include

-Swollen tonsil. The glands located in the back of the neck also appear to be swollen.

-Fever (mild to moderate) with a headache or chills.

-Some individuals also experience a sore throat accompanied by some yellow and white patches.

-The tongue of the affected individual typically appears white with the appearance of some red dots on its surface (Strawberry Tongue). The skin around the lips also appears pale.

-The appearance of red streaks (lines) around the folds of the elbows, armpits, or knees.

-In some cases, the face also appears to be flushed.


-Left untreated for long, Scarlet Fever can give rise to complications that include

-Rheumatic Fever


-The immune response triggered by the Streptococcus bacteria and the subsequent infection can result in inflammation of the kidney (one or both).

-An individual may also suffer from an ear infection, skin infections (mild to extreme depending on the severity of the Scarlet Fever), sinusitis or throat abscess (in extreme cases, can result in Peritonsillar abscesses).

Though rare, in some instances, an untreated or severe form of Scarlet Fever can give rise to fatal and life-threatening conditions such as

-Osteomyelitis (an extreme infection of the bone as well as the bone marrow whereby there is an inflammation mainly affecting the arms, spine or the legs).

-Meningitis, a fatal condition whereby the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord and the brain undergoes severe inflammation.

-Endocarditis, an infection that affects the inner lining of the heart.

-Toxic Shock Syndrome.

-Kidney failure (acute).


The timely use of antibiotics goes a long way to treat Scarlet Fever with elan. Medicines such Ibuprofen or Aspirin (should be doctor prescribed) play a significant role to alleviate the discomfort triggered by fever. Regular gargling with warm water and salt and the intake of warm and semi-solid foods or fluids can be highly benefitting. It is essential that the patient drinks water and healthy fluids to keep dehydration at bay.

-Since Scarlet Fever is contagious, one should follow some safety measures during the treatment such as

-The affected individual should be kept isolated in a separate room for at least 7- 10 days (or as the doctor recommended).

-Their personal belongings such as toiletries, utensils, toys, clothes should not be used by others.

-Always make sure that the affected individual uses a handkerchief or a tissue while coughing or sneezing.

-Take care of the personal hygiene and cleanliness. Wash hands and feet with a soap every time you enter the patient's room. Also, the patient's room should be kept as clean as possible.


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