Scarlet fever in children is an infection caused by group A streptococcus bacteria. The bacteria can produce a toxin, which cause a scarlet-colored rash. However, not all bacteria can produce this toxin. Also, not all the kids are sensitive to it, i.e. in the same family; one child may develop scarlet fever while the other may not, when both have strep infections. If your child has this rash and symptoms of strep throat, then antibiotics will be helpful in treating this.
It may start with an itching rash, which may looks like sun burn. It usually first appears on the face and neck. Then slowly spreads to chest and the rest of the body. However, the rash fades usually on the 6th day of the infection, allowing the affected skin to peel.
There are other symptoms too to recognize this disease, such as; swollen glands in the neck, a reddened sore throat, a fever above 101 degree Fahrenheit (38.3 degree Celsius). These symptoms usually suggest a scarlet fever. In the beginning of infection, your child's tongue may have a yellowish or whitish coating. Not just that, it could also accompany chills, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
Scarlet fever may also develop from throat infection, in such cases, fever stops in about 5 days and then the sore throat passes soon. Within next 6 days the rash also will disappear, leaving the skin to peel for next 10 days. With antibiotics, all the symptoms fade within 10 days.
A streptococcal skin infection like impetigo can also lead to scarlet fever, in rare cases. Sore throat wouldn't be there in such cases.
Scarlet fever caused by bacteria is contagious. Sneezing and coughing could be main reason to spread this disease to the next person. On the other hand, if the infection has started due to skin infection, then contact with the affected person's skin can spread it.
When your doctor suspects the scarlet fever, he may take a painless swab of throat secretions to see if the bacteria grow in the laboratory. In case confirmed, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic course for the next 10 days.
Let's see couple of things which you can try at home. A severe strep throat may find eating rather painful, so liquids and soft foods are advised for your child. Also, make sure that your child gets plenty of fluids; you may give tea, soups, ice creams, milk shakes, juices etc.
You may use a cool-mist humidifier at home, which will add moisture to the air. Since the rash could be itchy, your child may end up hurting his skin after continuous scratching. So, make sure that you trim his finger nails, so that the itching wouldn't hurt the skin.
Call your doctor in case you find the rash, accompanied by sore throat, fever or swollen glands. Especially in the case when you see the symptoms of strep throat.