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Scarlet Fever Symptoms and Facts

Updated on March 17, 2014
Cardisa profile image

Carolee is a passionate writer with a love for learning and teaching. She is a published author, poet, blogger, and content creator.


When I first heard of scarlet fever I was reminded of the weird fevers people used to have in the olden days that could not be treated and so it was. Many people suffered these unknown fevers. The name "scarlet fever" was given to this disease based on it's appearance and of course the fact that it was a fever.

Before we can talk about the symptoms of scarlet fever we have to know what scarlet fever is or what causes it. Scarlet fever is caused by the streptococci bacteria. This bacteria produces a poison that causes us to get a red rash. This disease used to be very prevalent among children but is now very treatable.

The streptococci bacterium is the same one that causes a strep throat so I would suggest getting treatment for your strep throat and don't let get out of hand. Since it's a bacteria and not a virus most likely you will need antibiotics. See section on treatments. These bacteria are classified in different groups with some causing different illnesses via the toxins they produce.

The most prominent symptom of scarlet fever is a rash that looks somewhat like a bad sunburn. This rash normally starts on the back of the neck then spreads to the other part of the body.


Symptoms of scarlet fever

These signs are symtomatic of scarlet fever. They usually start to show themselves within two days of coming in contact with the bacteria. As the name suggests: scarlet - red and fever, the symptoms to first present themselves are usually a fever, sore throat and redness on the armpits and groin. Other symptoms will follow shortly.

  • fever
  • headaches
  • vomiting
  • tummy ache
  • chills
  • strep throat
  • red rashy tongue
  • red sunburn-like rashes that starts on the neck and chest. As the disease gets worse they spread.
  • Redness on the arm-pits and near the groin area.


If you didn't know before, strep throat can lead to rheumatic fever and of course it does cause scarlet fever.

Strep throat is a caused by a bacteria. Bacteria causes infections. Infections can only be treated with antibiotics. So it lends to reason that if I have scarlet fever I will have to see a doctor and not try to treat it myself as with a common cold.

A prescription antibiotic will be supplied by your physician and in severe cases you might be hospitalized and treated there until they are satisfied that you are well enough to be sent home.

You know when your condition is serious if your symptoms persist beyond 24 hours of antibiotic treatment or more symptoms develop. In other words, once you start to take the antibiotics you should be feeling better not worse or the same.

Complications and prevention

As with most diseases caused from bacteria, if left untreated for too long scarlet fever can develop into more serious and even life threatening illnesses. Complications can still occur with the correct treatment but very unlikely. Some of these complications are:

  • Pneumonia
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Arthritis
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Kidney failure
  • Ear infection
  • Sinusitis
  • Meningitis
  • Hepatitis


If you know someone with scarlet fever stay away from them or be as careful as possible. If it is at all possible, wear a mask when around them and wash your hand with antibacterial soap as often as possible.

Be careful around someone with a strep throat. Make sure family members are careful and not drink from the same container before washing. Proper hygiene and sanitation is very essential to keeping healthy.



This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You take full legal responsibility for whatever decisions you make regarding you own health care. Consult your health care provider.

© 2012 Carolee Samuda


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    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      5 years ago from Jamaica

      Hello Momsdoworkathome, I am so glad that she was okay. This is not an illness to mess around with.

    • momsdoworkathome profile image

      Katina Davenport 

      5 years ago from Michigan

      About 2 years ago one of my daughter's friends had scarlet fever. I remember scrabbling to find out as much information on the disease as possible. I was upset. I thought the disease was gone through vaccines. I was wrong. Thankfully she never got it, but I sure was worried.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Angela, don't be scared. Now there are treatments for the disease as opposed to 50 years ago. It's very treatable. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 

      7 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      This is scary. Thank goodness I now know what to look for! Thank you!

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Thank you Lady Guinevere, have a wonderful weekend and thanks for visiting.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 

      7 years ago from West By God

      Good to know all these things.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Om, very scary indeed. I have never had or knows anyone who did, but I can imagine the pain and discomfort that it brings. Yikes is the right

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      7 years ago

      Very interesting info, Cardisa. I had never heard of this disease and am glad I've never had it! Vomiting, stomachache, rashy tongue? Yikes!

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Oh Wow, Moonlake, I had no idea that scarlet fever was so prevalent back then. I never thought I would get to talk to people with the illness. I am so glad you both are better. That must have been some ordeal.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with me and thanks for the vote.

      Have a great day!

    • moonlake profile image


      7 years ago from America

      My sister had scalet fever and she ended up with rheumatic fever. She was in the hospital for three months. Right behind her I ended up in the hospital they thought I also had rheumatic fever. Thank goodness it is now treatible. Very good hub. Voted Up.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Hey Kelly, I am so sorry this happened to you. It must have been awful having to take that shot for so long. The strep bacteria is contagious not the actual fever.

      Thanks for telling us your story. I really appreciate the comment. Have a great day.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Hey Cardisa - I had Scarlete Fever - and it was diagnosed in 1993. Yes - it is just a strep germ that works it's way down toward the heart. I had to have antibiotics for FIVE years! The doctor wanted to prevent another attack because you can get it again and it will attack worse the second time. My parents are medical professionals - so they just gave me a shot of bicillian once per month - cold thick stuff in the hip. Hated it! I could take penicillan every day instead but it made my stomach very sick.

      Excellent hub topic! I have never seen this addressed before and it is very serious. You can give another person strep but you can not give them scarlet fever - I don't believe. My doctor said they still do not know which strain of step it comes from.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Thank you my Lord, thy presence brings much joy. Now I curtsey...and ten you tip you hat.....sorry bout that...can't wait to get back to my medieval story. Your name reminds me of knights and lords.

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 

      7 years ago from New York

      Interesting topic. Haven't had this fever yet. But I9 thought it was contracted first by Humprey boggart before he was gone with the wind. Jokes aside, you have covered the subject professionally. Great hub!


    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Green Lotus. It is very treatable today with more advanced medicine unlike before. I don't know anyone who had it but it is a scary illness.

    • Green Lotus profile image


      7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      This is interesting and scary. I did have a cousin who had it once and the whole family was terrified. It's good to know that it is treated today with more understanding.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica


      Wow, what a history. I am so glad you stopped by because this is a great addition to this hub. It gives my article that real life experience and confirmation that such an article needs.

      It's a great thing that science improves everyday and we are very fortunate to have medication that fights the disease much better than 50 years ago.

      Thanks for such an in-depth and wonderful comment.

      Have a great day.

    • awordlover profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi Cardisa

      You have touched on a medical subject I know much about.

      Having had an interesting childhood with medical issues (Crohn's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, throat injury during tonsilectomy causing fluctuations in voice volume and articulation, endometriosis, Addison's Disease, just to name a few), it was one of the reasons I decided to become a physician.

      I contracted Scarlet Fever at age 4 and it was treated much differently than it is now. Years ago, parents who were not able to afford hospitalization for treatment were permitted to treat their children at home, often with daily physician visits, or if a family member was in medical field, they would be "designated' to give the antibiotic and other medication injections.

      My dad was a navy medic, so he was our "doctor" when we got sick. Years ago, parents were told to keep the children comfortable and for many that meant just putting them to bed with no other comfort measures.

      No cool bath soaks, no treating diarrhea/constipation, no Benadryl for itching. Topical Benadryl was not always offered as it was considered frivolous if it was going to wash off in the bathwater. It would have been far preferable to nothing in our case.

      There was no Tylenol then, so aspirin was used as a fever reliever.

      It is amazing how diseases of the past are rearing their ugly heads all these years later, but wonderful that we now have the drugs to be able to "treat" many of them.

      In the 1950s antibiotics were the new kids on the bloc, having only been accepted in practice for about 20 years, and not as developed as they are now.

      For us, scarlet fever meant a long siege of daily injections several times per day along with many home remedies for the sore throat, belly cramping, constipation, diarrhea and a long list of other side effect symptoms that result from medications to treat scarlet fever. It was a time in my life I will never forget and never want to repeat.

      While scarlet fever is not the black plague of years ago, it is still scary to anyone who contracts it. I have seen it about 50 times in my 35 year medical career and each time, the drugs improve so we can treat it and comfort measures offered are well accepted. Good hub, voted up.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Thank you AliciaC, have a wonderful day!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Your hub contains important information about scarlet fever, Cardisa. Thanks for sharing the details.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Thank you Teaches12345, glad I decided to write it. I started it two weeks ago but was so busy then I lost interest. I decided to finish and publish it today. I am glad I did.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Good hub advice on this topic. I agree that it must be treated because it can lead to many other complications. Well written with good detail. Voted up!


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