Scarlet fever is…
…a disease, also known as “scarlatina”, that is caused by infection of the throat with a particular bacteria. Although it used to be a serious childhood disease, most cases now are quite mild.
Scarlet fever usually starts with a sore throat, headache and fever. This is followed by a fine red rash that develops into many pimples (lesions) the size of pinheads, which make the skin feel like sandpaper. The rash starts on the upper trunk, armpit and neck and spreads but does not usually involve the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or face, although the patient’s cheeks will look flushed. The rash is usually seen in those under the age of 18. The skin may be itchy but will not be painful. Another early, characteristic symptom is a white covering of the tongue that peels away a few days later, leaving a distinctive “swollen tongue” appearance. The tonsils may also be affected. Other symptoms can include paleness around the mouth and swollen glands in the neck. The skin usually peels, especially on the fingertips, toes and groin. The rash usually lasts for 2–4 days leading to the peeling stage, which may continue for up to six weeks.
Read more about scarlet fever in the factsheet for the general public.