Scarlet Fever outbreak HMT

Scarlet Fever: What You Need to Know

Scarlet fever is on the rise across many areas in the UK, with up to a 50 percent increase compared to last year.

The infection is mostly found in young children and can be treated with antibiotics, it presents itself as a blotchy, pink-red rash.

We’ve created this guide to help you identify scarlet fever and tell you what you can do if you think you may have it.


The main symptom of scarlet fever is a red rash that begins on the chest or stomach which then spreads to other areas of the body. The rash is made up of small blotches that may join up as the infection progresses. The rash is rough in texture and will turn white when a glass is pressed against it.

The affected person may also get a red face, this will look different to the rash and may look like sunburn. If a red face is caused by scarlet fever, the area around the mouth usually stays a natural colour.

Sometimes, the tongue may be affected by scarlet fever, with a white coating which will peel away after a few days, leaving the tongue red and swollen.

A sore throat, headache, high temperature, swollen glands and vomiting are also signs of scarlet fever and are often the first symptoms to present themselves.


Scarlet fever is caused by the bacteria group A streptococcus which can live in the mouth and nasal passages. These bacteria are spread through contact with an infected person and are contagious from before the symptoms appear and until 24 hours after starting treatment.

The bacteria live in droplets that are expelled from an infected person during a sneeze or a cough, these bacteria then produce a toxin, or poison, that causes the rash.


The infection is treated with antibiotics which will be prescribed by a doctor, these will be taken for five or ten days and the course of treatment must be finished. Symptoms will improve in one to two days.scarlet fever, HMT

While taking antibiotics make sure to rest and drink plenty of fluids and try to avoid spreading the infection. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be taken if the pain level is high or if the high temperature is uncomfortable.

Preventing the Spread of Infection

As a highly infectious condition, it is important to try to limit contact with others, especially contact with vulnerable people.

How to stop the spread:

  • Stay away from nursery, school or work for at least 24 hours after starting treatment.
  • Regularly cleans hands with soap and water.
  • Avoid sharing items that may be carrying the infection (utensils, cups, clothes, bedsheets, toys etc).
  • Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and then discard off the tissue in the nearest bin.

If you think you or your child has scarlet fever, visit your doctor for a diagnosis and to begin antibiotic treatment.

HMT operates two not-for-profit hospitals, one in Grimsby and one in Swansea.

St Hughs Hospital in Grimsby – 01472 251 100

Sancta Maria Hospital in Swansea – 01792 479 040