Scarlet fever is a contagious infection that mostly affects young children. It’s easily treated with antibiotics. The first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature of 38C or above and swollen neck glands (large lump on the side of the neck). A rash appears a few days later.
Check if your child has scarlet fever
- A pink-red rash comes out, which feels like sandpaper and looks like sunburn. It starts on the chest and tummy
- A white coating also appears on the tongue. This peels, leaving it red and swollen (“strawberry tongue”)
- The rash doesn’t appear on the face, but the cheeks can be flushed
GPs can often diagnose scarlet fever by looking at the tongue and rash. Your GP will prescribe antibiotics. These don’t cure scarlet fever, but they will help your child get better quicker. They also reduce the risk of serious illnesses, such as pneumonia. Scarlet fever lasts for around a week. Your child is infectious from up to 7 days before the symptoms start and until:
- 24 hours after they take the first antibiotic tablet
- 2 weeks after symptoms start, if they don’t take antibiotics