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What are the signs and symptoms of scarlet fever?

Answered by Dr Ellie Cannon
8th September 2015
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The most characteristic and recognisable symptom of scarlet fever is the pink-red rash that affects individuals with the disease. It will usually appear in one place before spreading quickly to other parts of the body. It does not usually spread to a child’s face although they may give the appearance of having flushed cheeks, with the area around the mouth staying pale. It most commonly affects the ears, neck, chest, inner thighs, groin and elbows. If you press a glass against a scarlet fever rash, it will come back to normal.

Other symptoms of scarlet fever include:

  • A white coating on the tongue, which peels several days later resulting in the tongue becoming red and swollen with white bumps popping through (as such it is often referred to as ‘strawberry tongue’)
  • A noticeable loss of appetite
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Feelings of nausea and/or vomiting
  • White or yellow spots or coating on the tonsils and throat

In milder cases of scarlet fever, the rash may be the only present symptom. The scarlet fever incubation period (the time that passes from infection to the outbreak of the disease) is typically 2-5 days, but ranges between 1-7 days.


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