Scarlet fever is a disease caused by erythrogenic toxin (a bacterial exotoxin) released by Streptococcus pyogenes. Once a major cause of death, it is now effectively treated with antibiotics. The term scarlatina may be used interchangeably with scarlet fever, though it is most often used to indicate the less acute form of scarlet fever seen since the beginning of the twentieth century. How to Recognize and Treat Scarlet Fever. Caused by the same bacteria that causes strep throat, the illness is usually transmitted. Scarlet fever is a rash that is caused by strep infections.
Scarlet fever is a condition that afflicts mostly children between the ages of two and ten years old. It’s an extremely contagious rash caused by a strep infection that creates the scarlet fever toxin. The condition is spread through respiratory avenues or simple skin contact. Parents should be relieved however, to find that scarlet fever is relatively rare, and is not spread by all strep infections.Risks for contracting scarlet fever increase with crowded environments such as school classrooms. Learn how to identify scarlet fever signs and symptoms to prevent complications such as more serious infections and discomfort from rash. Scarlet fever causes a sore throat, high temperature and a rash. It usually occurs in children.
Scarlet fever is a rash accompanied by a sore throat caused by the streptococcus bacteria. To understand what we know about scarlet fever, it is helpful to realize a few things about what we know about the bacteria that causes it. The Group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus bacteria is the technical name for the bacteria which causes scarlet fever. This bacteria is very interesting because it has a role in a large number of other infections and diseases. Most people know this bacteria because it causes strep throat infections, however, it also causes other relatively mild illnesses such as simple skin infections.
This bacteria can also cause life-threatening infections such as deep tissue and bone infections and toxic shock syndrome. In addition, this bacteria, when left untreated, can cause the body to have an destructive immune reaction in the form of causing kidney problems (called glomerulonephritis) and heart damage (acute rheumatic fever). And finally, there are diseases we do not know the cause of but have a suspicion that this bacteria may be playing some role. As you can see, there is a lot we do know about Group A strep but there is still a lot of learning to do concerning some of the diseases it does cause. Fortunately, scarlet fever is one disease in which we have a good grasp of what is going on.
Scarlet fever is most often caused by strep throat. The bacteria releases a toxin which is irritative to the skin. This causes the skin to become quite red with little bumps. It is sometimes described as having a “sandpaper” appearance. Not all children who get strep throat get this rash. The reason for this is not completely understood except it may be that some strains of strep are more likely to cause it. Unfortunately, there are currently no medications that work directly against the toxin, so all that can be done is to kill the bacteria with antibiotics. Fortunately, this is all that is needed for scarlet fever because it responds well to antibiotics.
Essentially, scarlet fever is just a special term for a strep throat which has a particular rash associated with it. The rash is simply a symptom of the strep throat just like the fever is. The cause and risk of future problems is no greater with scarlet fever than it is with strep throat without the rash. However, there is one benefit to having scarlet fever. The rash is so characteristic and recognizable that a throat culture does not need to be done to confirm the diagnosis of strep throat which saves the child from the unpleasant swabbing of the throat.