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Scarlet Fever

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 1, 2023.

Scarlet fever is an infection caused by bacteria. This bacteria makes a toxin (poison) that can cause a red rash on the skin. Scarlet fever is most common in children between 5 and 15 years of age.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • It becomes difficult for your child to eat, drink, or breathe.
  • Your child cries without tears.
  • Your child has a dry mouth or cracked lips.
  • Your child is more sleepy or irritable than usual.
  • Your child has a sunken soft spot on the top of his or her head.
  • Your child urinates less than usual or not at all.
  • Your child says he or she feels dizzy.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child is tugging at his or her ears or has ear pain.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


  • Antibiotics are given to prevent or fight an infection caused by bacteria. Give your child this medicine exactly as directed by his or her healthcare provider. Do not stop giving your child the antibiotics unless directed by his or her provider. Do not give your child leftover antibiotics from another illness or share them with anyone.
  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help decrease your child's pain and fever. They are available without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child, and how often to give it. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage and ibuprofen can cause kidney damage if not used correctly.
  • Do not give aspirin to children younger than 18 years. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he or she takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin or salicylates.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell the provider if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

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Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Give your child warm liquids, such as soup, or cold foods such as popsicles or milkshakes. This may help ease the pain of the sore throat.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier to increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for your child to breathe and help decrease his or her cough.
  • Your child needs rest to heal. Quiet play will keep your child safely busy. Have your child read or draw quietly when he or she is awake. Follow instructions for how much rest your child should get while he or she heals.

Prevent scarlet fever:

  • Wash your hands and your child's hands often. Use soap for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm running water. Dry with a clean towel or paper towel. Wash your hands several times each day. Wash after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, and before you prepare or eat food. Wash your child's hands after he or she uses the bathroom or sneezes. Wash your child's hands before he or she eats. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Keep your child away from others who are sick. Separate your child from brothers or sisters who are sick. Ask friends and family not to visit if they are sick. Your child's healthcare provider will tell you when your child can return to school or work. This is usually 24 hours after he or she begins antibiotics and the fever is gone.
  • Clean toys and surfaces. Clean toys that are shared with other children. Use a disinfectant solution to clean common surfaces.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visit.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Scarlet Fever

Treatment options

Care guides

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.