Scarlet fever

In after-school care, daycare centers and schools, children repeatedly come into contact with a wide variety of pathogens. Scarlet fever is one of the typical childhood diseases, although the bacterial infection often frightens parents by its sudden onset. Read here how you can alleviate such an infection in young patients and why scarlet fever is not at all uncommon in adults.

Child in red top with strawberry tongue due to scarlet fever

Brief overview

Definition: Scarlet fever is a highly contagious infectious disease that primarily affects the throat and pharynx as well as the skin.

Symptoms: Sufferers complain of a reddened tongue, skin rash, fever, sore throat, headache, abdominal pain and vomiting.

Causes: Scarlet fever is caused by bacteria, more precisely the so-called A-streptococci, which produce certain scarlet fever poisons (toxins).

Treatment: To combat the pathogens, the doctor usually prescribes an antibiotic.

About scarlet fever

Scarlet fever affects many children. This is mainly due to the high contagiousness of the bacteria. Clusters of illnesses are usually seen in the winter months, from October to March. If you notice symptoms in your child that point to the disease – for example, the deep red tongue is characteristic – you should therefore Be sure to see a doctor.

In order not to endanger other children as well, you as parents are obliged to tell the kindergarten or school about the diagnosis. Your offspring must not visit the facility for the time being – this is the only way to contain regular "scarlet fever" waves. Educators and teachers can now pay more attention to hygiene and distance rules and warn other parents. Once the infection has cleared up or is treated with antibiotics, your child may also return to after-school care and co.

Caution: Silent carriers

According to the German Federal Center for Health Education, one in 5 children is infected.-10. Person carries scarlet fever-causing bacteria – but does not get any symptoms themselves. Although these people rarely pass on the pathogens to others, it is nevertheless sensible to pay attention to hygiene, even independently of possible waves of infection, and to teach it even to the youngest children at an early age.

Symptoms of scarlet fever

The incubation period, i.e. the phase between infection and the appearance of the first symptoms, usually lasts 1-3, at most 7 days in scarlet fever. Then the disease makes through some typical signs attention to themselves.

You are unsure whether you could recognize a scarlet fever infection in yourself or your child? These symptoms will give you some initial clues:

Characteristic features

Scarlet fever causes some symptoms that suggest a corresponding suspicion:

Raspberry red tongue

While the tongue has a whitish coating during the first few days ("white raspberry tongue"), a deep red discoloration of the tongue may develop thereafter ("red raspberry tongue"). The reason for this is an inflammation of the taste buds on the tongue.

Rash on the skin

About the same time as the scarlet tongue color, there is often a dot-like rash on the skin. It often begins in the groin region or under the armpits and then spreads over the entire body. The rash is slightly raised and does not itch. Palms of hands and soles of feet remain exposed. On the face, there is typically a distinct redness of the cheeks with a notch around the mouth ("pale mouth triangle").

Other symptoms

In addition, scarlet fever is associated with other – less clear – complaints, for example:

    (especially when swallowing)
  • Chills
  • severe feeling of illness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Headache
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Enlarged and reddened pharyngeal tonsils

They usually still develop in front of the scarlet fever-typical features. Marked is a thereby often abrupt onset with high fever and strongly impaired general condition.

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Sickness stage

In general, the course of an illness cannot be pinned down to the day – too much depends on the amount of pathogens and the individual, health condition. Roughly, doctors observe the following course of disease in scarlet fever (without the administration of antibiotics):

  • Incubation period (for 1-3, at most 7 days after pathogen contact): When the body is attacked by pathogens, it tries to contain the infection as quickly as possible. If he or she fails to do so and the scarlet bacteria are able to spread, the incubation period marks the phase until the first noticeable symptoms develop.
  • Illness phase (about 1 week): Affected persons feel ill and exhibit the typical symptoms.
  • Decay of the disease (2-6 weeks): By this time, the immune system has triumphed over the bacteria – there are usually no more physical limitations. The rash becomes paler and the skin scales, also on the hands and feet.

In most cases, scarlet fever is not likely to cause complications, especially if treated with antibiotics. If complications or secondary diseases do occur due to the bacteria or toxins, these may include:

  • otitis media
  • Tonsillitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Scarlet fever
  • rheumatic fever
  • Heart Muscle Inflammation

Extremely rarely – when the bacteria spread almost uncontrollably – the patient may Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS) develop. This life-threatening complication requires intensive care treatment. Nearly 30% of sufferers die from STSS.

At the latest, if your child or yourself develop a rash or fever, you should go to the doctor. He or she can diagnose scarlet fever with relative certainty and, through the right treatment, help to ensure that no complications develop.

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