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Scarlet fever in children: What is it, what are its symptoms and how is it spread?


The scarlet fever or scarlet fever is an infectious disease characteristic of children, especially among the 2 and 8 years. Its main characteristic is a skin rash, usually associated with some angina (acute pharyngitis).

What is the cause?

The cause of scarlet fever is the bacteria Beta hemolytic streptococcus from group A (pyoneges). This microorganism secretes a toxin that causes the eruption or rash. On rare occasions, scarlet fever can be registered by a wound infected by the microbe, although in these cases angina is not registered.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually manifest after an incubation period of 2 to 5 days. They are usually these:

  1. High fever. More than 38.5ºC for a minimum of three days and a maximum of five.

  2. Angina and sore throat (usually with plaques of pus on tonsils).

  3. Abdominal pain, vomiting and headache.

  4. Acne. It can appear up to two days after the onset of fever. It usually consists of a reddish rash that is scratchy to the touch. It initially appears on the face and neck and then spreads to the chest and extremities. It can last a week.

  5. ‘Raspberry’ looking tongue. (It is occasional, and leaves the tongue whitish with reddish marks)

How is it spread?

The most common form of contagion is through droplets of respiratory secretions from a sick person. It can also infect an asymptomatic carrier. The other route of contagion is the one mentioned before: by infection of a wound.

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Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis is usually by evaluation of rashes and tonsils. You can also do an antigen test to detect strep.

Treatment is oral antibiotics. If the rash is accompanied by itching, an antihistamine can be given, also orally.

Can it be prevented?

Preventive measures can be taken when a case is known. It is advisable to adopt these precautions:

  1. Handwashing after being in contact with the patient.

  2. avoid going to class until the fever is gone.

  3. Avoid close contact with children diagnosed with scarlet fever.

Can you get infected more than once?

Since there are at least three different types of toxins, the same person can get scarlet fever several times if it is caused by a toxin for which they have not created antibodies.

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