If your child has a bright, bumpy rash, their doctor might suspect scarlet fever, or scarlatina, as it’s also known. It’s an infection that can easily be spread from person to person. It's caused by the same bacteria that causes strep throat and, although anyone can get it, it’s most common in kids ages 5 to 15.
- Physical exam. The doctor will look at your child's throat, tongue, and tonsils. They'll check for things like swollen glands and white or yellow specks in the mouth and throat. They'll also look for other symptoms like chills, fever, and body ache. They’ll ask whether your child has nausea, vomiting, or no appetite.
- Rapid strep test. This may immediately test positive for the bacteria that causes scarlet fever and strep. If it's negative, the swab can be sent out for a throat culture – a more in-depth test to see if the bacteria is actually present.
- Throat swab. If your doctor thinks strep throat is to blame, they might swab your child's throat and tonsils. The swab collects material that might contain bacteria.
It's important to test for strep because other illnesses can cause the same symptoms. They may have different treatments.
Typically, the treatment for scarlet fever is the same as that for strep throat. Your doctor will give your child an antibiotic. It's important that they finish it all. They shouldn't go back to school or day care until they've taken the medicine for at least 24 hours and no longer has a fever. Be sure to let day care providers and classmates know that they may have been exposed.
Your doctor may suggest other treatments that might help:
- Gargle with warm, salty water to help with mouth and throat pain.
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain or fever. But this is for adults -- never give aspirin to children or teens.
- Drink more fluids. It’ll help keep your throat or your child's throat moist and stop dehydration.
- Add moisture to the air in your home. A cool mist humidifier may help ease a sore throat.
- If your child is 4 years or older, soothing drops can help with throat pain. Soups and ice pops may also help.
- If the rash itches, talk to your doctor about an anti-itch medicine. Trim your child's nails so they won't hurt their skin by scratching.