Scarlet fever is caused by the streptococcus bacteria. These bacteria are carried in the nose and mouth and spread easily to cause infection.
Children from 3 years to 8 years are at great risk of getting infected because they are vulnerable at that age and their bodies' immune system has not fully developed to withstand the exposure to these bacteria.
At the beginning of the 20th century scarlet fever used to cause deadly epidemics due to lack of proper medicines to control the disease. But the invention of antibiotics has changed the situation now. Early diagnosis and timely treatment has brought scarlet fever under control and it is no more considered as deadly as once it was.
Scarlet fever starts off with sore throat, fever, headache, and followed by rash one or two days later. The rash appears more like sun burn with tiny bumps which looks like sand paper. The rash begins on face and neck and area around the mouth remains unaffected. This makes the face appear scarlet. The rash spreads to chest and back and also to other parts of the body. The rash gets worse in skin folds. The tongue gets a thick white coating which peels off after four or five days leaving it red in color. Tonsils and the back of the throat get swollen and dotted with yellow specs of pus. The neck glands are also swollen. In addition, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain will be experienced.
Antibiotics are given to bring the infection under control and the patient slowly recovers to normalcy. However, scarlet fever rash is definitely itchy and there is a tendency to scratch. This can develop secondary skin infection if proper precautions are not taken. As the rash heals, the skin peels off. Treatment for scarlet fever itch is usually Calamine lotion, which can help ease the itch. Child’s finger nails need to be trimmed to avoid secondary infection.
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