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Have you ever heard about scarlet fever? It's important to recognize this childhood illness for timely management.
Scarlet fever is a contagious disease caused by bacteria called Group A streptococcus. It is a rather common complication of a throat infection: streptococcal pharyngitis. Many people have this type of pharyngitis (strep throat) without suffering from scarlet fever. This infection is more frequent in children between the ages of 5 and 15, but can also affect adults.
These bacteria are transmitted by air-born droplets carried in secretions of an infected person's cough or sneeze. It can also be transmitted through contact with surfaces contaminated by secretions.
The first signs and symptoms of scarlet fever generally appear 2 to 4 days after the bacteria enter the human organism. They include:
The sore throat can be very intense and make eating and hydration difficult. About two days following the start of primary symptoms, the onset of a reddish rash on the skin and a whitish coating on the tongue can be observed.
The skin rash first appears on the neck, face and flexion creases (e.g. inside the elbows), then spreads to the rest of the body. It takes the form of small red spots with a sandpaper-like feel. When the whitish coating on the tongue disappears, it is replaced by tiny red bumps (giving it a raspberry-like appearance) on the tongue and roof of the mouth.
Other less common symptoms may also occur, including:
It's important to see a doctor if you think your child or a family member suffers from scarlet fever. The doctor will do the necessary tests to make a diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Scarlet fever lasts about seven days.
Because scarlet fever is caused by bacteria, an antibiotic treatment will be prescribed. This type of treatment helps to diminish symptoms, shorten it's duration, and prevent spreading and possible complications. The pharmacist will evaluate if it is the best treatment for the affected person and provide the necessary advice.
It is important to follow the full course of treatment. Twenty-four hours after the start of an antibiotic treatment, the infected person is no longer contagious.
Other measures can help to ease symptoms. Here are some examples:
Ask your pharmacist to provide you with additional information on the ways to relieve symptoms of scarlet fever.
Contrary to many childhood illnesses, scarlet fever can be prevented through immunization. However, some basic preventative measures can be taken:
If you think your child or someone around you is affected by scarlet fever, don't hesitate to consult your pharmacist, who will be able to direct you to the appropriate resources, according to your situation. Your pharmacist can also answer your questions about the illness and its treatment.
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