Scarlet fever warning for parentsScarlet fever symptoms alert as disease escalates

10 March 2015

Digital thermometer

A digital thermometer can be helpful in checking your child for a fever

Scarlet fever cases have risen sharply in early 2015, according to official figures from Public Health England (PHE).

Scarlet fever is a highly contagious bacterial illness. 1,265 new cases of the disease were reported in the first six weeks of the year, an increase of 66% on the same period in 2014.

Scarlet fever cases are more common in children, although scarlet fever in adults of all ages can also occur. 

Scarlet fever symptoms

PHE, a government body which provides information on public health, urged parents to be on the lookout for symptoms, which include a sore throat and fever and may be accompanied by a headache, nausea and vomiting. Between 12 to 48 hours after this, a fine, sandpapery scarlet fever rash develops, often appearing first on the chest or stomach.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance, has this advice if you think your child has scarlet fever: 

  • Individuals who think they or their child may have scarlet fever should consult their GP. 
  • Symptoms usually clear up after a week and in the majority of cases remain reasonably mild providing a course of antibiotics is completed to reduce the risk of complications.
  • As scarlet fever is highly contagious, children or adults diagnosed with scarlet fever are advised to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid passing on the infection. 
  • For families and friends caring for someone with scarlet fever, the risk of spread can be reduced through frequent hand washing and ensuring clothes, bedding, towels and cutlery are not shared between members of the household.'

Concerned your child has a fever? Read parents' reviews of digital thermometers for children.

Scarlet fever high season

High season for scarlet fever is March and April, when the number of cases reported typically increases.

PHE said that it was concerned about the high number of cases. Last year in England, more than 14,000 cases of scarlet fever were reported, the highest total since the late 1960s.

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