What Are the Symptoms of Scarlet Fever?

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on April 24, 2021
2 min read

Scarlet fever -- also called scarlatina -- is an infection that’s easily passed from person to person. Anyone can get it, but it's most common in kids from ages 5 to 15.

Scarlet fever gets its name from a bright red, bumpy rash that often covers much of the body.

The namesake red rash usually starts out looking like a bad sunburn. It typically starts on your neck and face and then spreads to the chest, the back, and the rest of the body. It’s raised and looks a little like sandpaper. It can be itchy, and areas of the rash can turn white when you press on them. When the rash goes away, the skin may peel around the fingertips, toes, and groin.

The rash is the most common symptom, but there are other telltale signs that come with the condition. They include:

  • Red streaks. In the folds of skin where creases form, the rash forms red lines. Areas are usually deeper red around armpits, elbows, knees, neck, and groin.
  • Red face. Your face may look flushed, except for your mouth. There may be a pale, white area just around your mouth.
  • "Strawberry" tongue. Early on, your tongue will often look red and bumpy.

Other signs of scarlet fever can include:

Because scarlet fever symptoms can be similar to other conditions, always check with your doctor or pediatrician. They'll do an exam and other tests in order to start the right treatment.