It is an illness which can cause liver and kidney damage, bone infection and blood poisoning in young children, and it is on the rise.
Parents are being urged to be vigilant following an increase in the reported number of cases of scarlet fever .
It is a highly contagious illness which usually affects children below 10, and is on the rise in parts of the midlands and north.
So here’s a few things you need to know about scarlet fever
What is scarlet fever?
Scarlet fever is a bacterial illness that mainly affects children, causing a distinctive pink-red rash.
What are the symptoms:
- The aforementioned red rash which feels like sandpaper to touch and looks like sunburn. It usually starts on the chest and stomach, but soon spreads to other parts of the body, such as the ears, neck, elbows, inner thighs and groin.
- Loss of appetite.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- A white coating on the tongue which peels a few days later.
- Sore throat, headache and high temperature.
How does it spread?
Scarlet fever is very contagious and can be caught by:
- Breathing in bacteria in airborne droplets from an infected person’s coughs and sneezes.
- Touching the skin of a person with a streptococcal skin infection, such as impetigo.
- Sharing contaminated towels, baths, clothes or bed linen.
It can also be caught from carriers – people who have the bacteria in their throat or on their skin but don’t have any symptoms.
Can adults get it?
Most cases (about 80%) of scarlet fever occur in children under 10 (usually between two and eight years of age). However, people of any age can get the illness.
What’s the treatment?
The usual treatment for the fever is a 10-day course of antibiotics, with the symptoms disappearing within 24 hours of starting the medication.
What’s the worse that can happen?
Very rare complications can include rheumatic fever, kidney damage, liver damage, bone infection, blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome, which can be life-threatening.
There’s a small risk of the infection spreading to other parts of the body and causing more serious infections, such as an ear infection, sinusitis, or pneumonia.
Can you get it again?
It’s possible to catch scarlet fever more than once, but this is rare.
Is there a scarlet fever vaccine?
How to stop scarlet fever spreading
- If your child has scarlet fever, keep them away from nursery or school for at least 24 hours after starting treatment with antibiotics.
- Adults with the illness should also stay off work for at least 24 hours after starting treatment.
- Children and adults should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze and wash their hands with soap and water after using or disposing of tissues.
- Avoid sharing contaminated utensils, cups and glasses, clothes, baths, bed linen or towels.
Scarlet fever is one of the diseases that must be reported by a doctor by law if they suspect a patient has it.
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