Scarlet fever is making a comeback. Here are the warning signs every parent needs to know

As much as we parents want to make sure our kids never suffer, we can’t protect them from everything. So when our little ones inevitably get sick, we need to be on top of it. That means knowing about common illnesses and some not so common ones and being on the lookout for them.

In recent years, an unlikely illness is making a comeback: scarlet fever. So before your kid comes down with the terrible rash, it’s important to know what it is, how to spot it and when to get your little one treated.

Here’s everything you need to know to protect and take care of your child:

What is scarlet fever?

Scarlet fever (also known as scarlatina) is a disease that can affect children with strep throat or a strep skin infection. A buildup of strep bacteria (called Streptococcus bacteria) creates a toxin that causes a sore throat, a bumpy red tongue and a rash that feels like sandpaper.


First signs

Scarlet fever usually starts with a rash on the chest or stomach before it spreads to other areas.


  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Swollen neck glands
  • Red body rash
  • Itchy skin
  • Red face
  • White or red tongue
  • High fever
  • Abdominal pain

What should you do?

Eating is painful for children with strep throat, so it’s best to serve them soft food and liquids. Make sure you kid drinks plenty of fluids and give them over-the-counter children’s pain killers for throat pain and fever.

If your child has a rash as well as a sore throat, fever or swollen glands, call a doctor. This is especially important if your child has symptoms of strep throat or if anyone at their daycare or school has had a strep infection recently.


Your child’s doctor will prescribe antibiotics to take for 10 days. This should cure the infection, though your child’s swollen glands and tonsils might take a few weeks to return to normal.

Can it be prevented?

The bacterial infection that causes scarlet fever is highly contagious. It’s spread through coughing and sneezing. A skin infection caused by strep can also be spread through contact with the skin.

Make sure to keep your infected child’s dishes, glasses and utensils, as well as their toothbrush away from those of other family members and wash them well in hot soapy water.

Please share this information with your friends and family who have kids so they can be informed, too. No child should have to suffer unnecessarily.

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