What is Scarlet Fever?

Does your child have a bright red rash that looks and feels like sandpaper? It could be scarlet fever.

Scarlet fever -- also called scarlatina -- is an infection that’s easily spread from person to person. It gets its name from the red, bumpy rash that typically covers the body. It starts out looking like a sunburn. Most often, the rash begins on the face and neck and then spreads to the rest of the body.

If your child has strep throat, there's a chance he will also develop scarlet fever. The same bacteria that causes scarlet fever causes strep throat. It's called "group A strep."

Scarlet fever can also be linked to burns or wounds that become infected -- your own or the infected wounds of another person.

Anyone can get scarlet fever, but it's most common in kids from 5 to 15 years old. The infection is often passed between classmates at school or family members who are in close contact with each other. It's most often spread by contact with the droplets emitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can even be spread if you touch something -- like a plate or glass – on which these droplets have landed.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on March 24, 2019



HealthyChildren.org: "Scarlet Fever."

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: "Scarlet Fever."

KidsHealth: "Scarlet Fever."

Boston Children's Hospital: "Scarlet Fever in Children."

CDC: "Scarlet Fever: A Group A Streptococcal Infection."

Mayo Clinic: "Scarlet Fever Definition," "Scarlet Fever Risk Factors," "Scarlet Fever Causes."

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