Australia has many cases of scarlet fever, making it vital to learn more about this contagious illness, especially for parents, teachers, and caregivers.
This illness can affect both adults and small children, although it is more likely to happen with the latter. While it is considered a severe illness in the past, it is preventable with proper first aid treatment today.
What Is Scarlet Fever?
Scarlet fever (or scarlatina) is a bacterial infection that mostly affects young children. The illness is known for featuring a bright red rash that covers most of the child’s body.
A bacteria called group A strep (or streptococcus) can cause scarlet fever. The same bacteria can also release poison or toxins, which causes rashes and is always accompanied by a sore throat and high fever.
The way it spreads is the infection transmits from person to person through droplets that are expelled when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. The incubation period of this illness between the time of exposure and the appearance of the first symptom is usually one to three days.
Scarlet fever is common in children ages five to 15. The bacteria spread more easily among people in close contact, including classmates, teachers, and family members.
In the past, scarlet fever is considered a deadly childhood illness. However, the continuous development in medicine and the use of antibiotics have made it less threatening.
Still, if left without treatment, this illness can result in a more serious condition that can affect the child’s heart health, bone development, nervous system, kidney, and other major organs of the body.
Signs And Symptoms
The fight signs of scarlet fever can appear as flu-like symptoms – high body temperature, sore throat, and swollen neck glands (large lump on the side of the neck).
Then a bright red rash will appear 12 to 24 hours later, which looks like small, raised bumps that will start on the chest and stomach. It will then slowly spread throughout the body, making the skin feel rough and sandpaper-like.
The rash and redness in the facial area usually last for a week. After the symptoms have subsided, the skin with previous rashes tends to peel.
Other signs associated with scarlet fever may include:
- A fever of 101 °F (38.3 °C) or higher often accompanied by chills
- Red, sore throat (sometimes with white or yellowish patches)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Enlarged glands in the neck area (lymph nodes)
- Nausea or vomiting
The symptoms are the same for all ages, although the illness is less likely to occur in adults.
Scarlet Fever Treatment
There are several steps to reduce the child’s discomfort and pain from scarlatina symptoms.
Take Medications To Treat Fever And Pain
Give age-appropriate ibuprofen (Advil, Children’s Motrin, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) to help lower their tempera and minimise throat pain.
Provide Adequate Fluids
Give the child plenty of water to keep the throat moist and prevent dehydration.
Prepare A Saltwater Gargle
Give the child salty water to gargle and after circling throughout the mouth and throat, spit it out.
Humidify The Air
Use a cool-mist humidifier to try and eliminate the dryness that causes throat irritation (or sore throat)
Minimise any contact between the infected child and others once they start exhibiting symptoms of scarlet fever. Take note that the bacterial infection and highly contagious which means it can easily spread from one person or another.
In most scenarios, exposing the child to a hospital or any public area is not recommended as it can put others at risk. It is best to call a GP for the next best steps.
When To See A Doctor?
See a paediatrician if the child does not get better in a week or is ill again after initial symptoms get better. Having scarlet fever and chickenpox at the same time may cause concern. Seek medical advice right away.
When it comes to scarlet fever, there is little that parents can do to relieve child’s symptoms. While most cases of these illnesses are not alarming, it is best to be on the lookout and be ready to perform lifesaving techniques while seeking advanced treatment.
There are also other child injuries and illnesses that are treatable with first aid. We encourage all parents and carers to get first aid training to learn techniques for protecting a child’s health.
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