Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever (scarlatina) is an infection that usually affects young children, although it can affect anyone. It is called scarlet fever as it causes a mottled pink/red rash to the skin.


  • It is very infectious and is spread by the breath of an infected person
  • It isn’t usually serious, and can be treated with antibiotics
  • You don’t usually get it more than once


Symptoms usually develop after 7 days of contact with an infected person:

  • sore throat
  • headache
  • high temperature (38C or above)
  • swollen neck glands
  • being sick
  • mottled rash, which turns white if you press a glass on it. The rash usually starts on the tummy and then spreads. The rash often feels rough.
  • red cheeks which looks similar to sunburn. Doesn’t usually affect the area around the mouth
  • red or white coated tongue (which will peel away leaving the tongue red and swollen)

Scarlet fever

You should contact your GP or call NHS 111 if you think that you or your child has scarlet fever.

You or your child may be given antibiotics, which will help with the infection. Young children get this in liquid form.


  • give lots of drinks
  • rest
  • you can give paediatric (children’s) paracetamol if they have a high temperature
  • even if your child begins to feel better after a few days, complete the whole course of antibiotics to fully clear the infection.

With treatment, scarlet fever will usually clear within 7 days, although the skin may continue to peel.

Your child is infectious for 7 days from when the symptoms start until:

  • 24 hours after you give them their first antibiotic
  • 2 weeks without antibiotics

If you have any concerns that your child is not improving after this time, contact your GP.

Complications are not common but may develop into:-

  • Ear infections
  • Meningitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Throat abscess
  • Rheumatic fever

As scarlet fever is very infectious, remember to:

  • Always wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • Use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Put used tissues in a bin and wash your hands

Don’t share anything with a child\person who may be infected, including:

  • Towels
  • Cutlery
  • Food and drinks

ChatHealth logo

Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

Leicester City: text 07520 615381

Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382

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