What is scarlet fever?
The scarlet fever is an infectious disease, the pathogens belong to the genus of streptococci (more precisely to the beta-hemolytic streptococci). Often children "only" suffer from a streptococcal angina, which is less severe. Scarlet is, so to speak, the full picture.
The bacteria settle as parasites in the mucous membranes. In some people they live there unnoticed, sometimes they cause purulent tonsillitis with sore throat. Under certain conditions, they can produce a poison called scarlet toxin and the infection spreads throughout the body.
Stomach infections by scarletium toxins occur mainly in children, most often between the ages of six and twelve.But even toddlers and older babies can get this inflammation. Streptococcal pharyngitis often occurs in winter, and according to estimates by the Robert Koch Institute, about one to one and a half million people suffer from it each year in Germany (RKI 2009). Scarlet fever is much rarer, there are about 60 diseases per 100,000 people.
Scarlet fever is a childhood disease that rarely complicates and is easily treated thanks to the invention of antibiotics.
How can you get infected?
Scarlet fever is transmitted in most cases by droplet infection, so if you cough or sneeze. Rarer, but that also happens when you pick up the bacteria when you are splashing a glass of water with a carrier or biting off the same food. Close coexistence and close proximity to other people, such as in school or kindergarten, promote the development of bacteria.
As soon as you get infected, the first symptoms usually appear within two to five days. Two to three weeks after the outbreak you can infect others if the disease is not treated.
How do I recognize the symptoms of scarlet fever?
Scarlet fever can be expressed in several ways. It can start as an inflammation in the throat and throat, the throat hurts and swallowing is difficult. Often follows a sudden, high fever and may cause chills and cough. If your child has these symptoms, you should go with him to the doctor.
Smaller children often have additional abdominal pain and vomiting (RKI 2006). In addition, sinus or middle ear infections may occur, sometimes including pneumonia.
If the bacteria enter the bloodstream during the throat infection, the infection can spread to the entire body. Then the actual scarlet fever can occur. It comes within a day or two to an itchy rash with pinhead-sized, deep red spots that begin at the shoulders and in the groin and spread in a circular shape on the body. The hands and feet are not affected.
Also typical is the so-called milk beard, which is called because the rash does not occur in the area between the lower lip and chin and thus a white triangle remains under the mouth. In addition, the so-called raspberry tongue is typical - the tongue turns scarlet red according to the disease name, is covered and later begins to peel. After six to nine days, the rash returns, the skin begins to shed, especially on the fingertips and on the soles of the feet.
Failure to treat the disease may result in acute rheumatic fever and / or later inflammation of the kidneys as a reaction to the toxin of the bacteria.
Only very rarely can the bacterial poisoning of the blood cause streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS). As a result of the disease, organs can fail and 30 percent of patients die.
How can you treat scarlet fever?
In most cases, the bacteria can be combated with the ancestor of all antibiotics, the penicillin. In Germany, streptococci are almost always sensitive to penicillin. This is prescribed by the doctor and you should give it to your child for seven days. If you stop earlier, there is a risk that the disease will erupt again (RKI 2006). Twenty-four hours after your child has taken antibiotics for the first time and his symptoms subside, it can also go back to the daycare or nursery, i. it is not contagious anymore.
While your child has scarlet fever, swallowing will be difficult because the tonsils are swollen and the throat hurts. Nevertheless, make sure that it takes enough liquid. Children can easily dehydrate. Offer your child meals that are easy to swallow without chewing - nutrient-rich soups, porridge, milkshakes and ice cream. A humidifier or a damp towel over the heater can help with sore throats and possible coughing.
If the fever is too high or the pain is too bad, then let the pediatrician prescribe suppositories or juice.
How can I protect myself and my child?
There is no vaccine against scarlet fever and therefore no effective protection, apart from generally good hygiene in the household.
If you are worried that your child has scarlet fever, it is best to call the pediatrician immediately so that it can be treated as soon as possible before the disease continues to spread throughout the body.
More about teething problems and their vaccinations
RKI 2006. Robert Koch Institute: "Counselor infectious diseases, scarlet fever and other infections caused by Streptococcus pyogenes."
Leaflet Scarlet of the RKI [as of March 2009]