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Read about scarlet Fever including what to do if you think your child has scarlet fever.

Signs and symptoms of scarlet fever

The early symptoms of scarlet fever include:

  • sore throat
  • headache
  • fever
  • nausea and vomiting

After 12 to 48 hours, a characteristic red, pinhead rash develops, typically first appearing on the chest and stomach, then rapidly spreading to other parts of the body, and giving the skin a sandpaper-like texture.

The scarlet rash on darker skin may be harder to see than the scarlet rash on paler skin, although the 'sandpaper' feel should be present.

Patients typically have flushed cheeks and be pale around the mouth. This may be accompanied by a bright red ‘strawberry’ tongue.

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Actions to take if you or your child might have scarlet fever

If you think you, or your child, might have scarlet fever:

  • contact your GP or NHS 111 as soon as possible
  • make sure you or your child take the full course of any prescribed antibiotics (even if you or your child feel better soon after starting medication, you must complete the course to ensure you don't carry the bacteria in your throat, after you've recovered)
  • stay at home, away from nursery, school or work for at least 24 hours after starting the antibiotic treatment, to avoid spreading the infection

You can help to 'stop the spread' of infection through frequent handwashing and by not sharing eating utensils, clothes, bedding and towels.

All contaminated tissues should be disposed of immediately.

As a parent, you should trust your own judgement; contact NHS 111 or your GP if:

  • your child is getting worse
  • your child is feeding or eating much less than normal
  • your child has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration
  • your baby is under 3 months and has a temperature of 38C, or is older than 3 months and has a temperature of 39C or higher
  • your baby feels hotter than usual when you touch their back or chest, or feels sweaty
  • your child is very tired or irritable

Call 999, or go to accident and emergency (A&E) at your local hospital, if:

  • your child is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs
  • there are pauses when your child breathes
  • your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue
  • your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake

Invasive Group A Strep (iGAS)

The same bacteria which cause Scarlet Fever can also cause a range of other types of infection, such as skin infections (Impetigo) and sore throat.

In very rare cases, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called Invasive Group A Strep (iGAS). Whilst still very uncommon, there has been an increase in iGAS cases this year (2022), particularly in children under 10 years old.

It is very rare for children with Scarlet Fever to develop iGAS infection.

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Stop the spread of Scarlet Fever

During periods of high incidence of scarlet fever, there may also be an increase in outbreaks in schools, nurseries and other childcare settings.

In York, we continue to prioritise the importance of regular attendance at school, to support the achievement and wellbeing of children and young people. However, we recognise the importance of early identification and early intervention to prevent the spread of 'Strep A'.

If your child is displaying symptoms that are cause for concern, keep them at home and seek medical advice; contact your school to let them know your child is unwell, and their absence will be authorised.

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Also see

Public Health

Station Rise, West Offices, York, YO1 6GA

Telephone: 01904 553866