How to Cure Scarlet Fever

Two Methods:Getting Medical TreatmentRecovering at Home

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection that causes a raised “scarlatina” rash which feels like sandpaper. The bacteria that causes scarlet fever causes "scarlet" redness in the rash and on the tongue. Though anyone can get it, scarlet fever usually affects children under age 10.[1] It's usually a mild illness, but you must take steps to cure the infection before it progresses to a potentially dangerous, long-term health problem.

Method 1
Getting Medical Treatment

  1. Image titled Cure Scarlet Fever Step 1
    Recognize the symptoms of scarlet fever.[2] It usually affects people who have strep throat, as it's caused by the same Streptococcus bacteria. In rare cases, it may be caused by streptococcal skin infections. Anyone can contract scarlet fever, but it occurs primarily in children under age ten. Especially in children, look for the following symptoms of scarlet fever:
    • Red, sore throat
    • Fever
    • Red rash that feels like sandpaper
    • Bright red skin in underarm, elbow and groin creases
    • A whitish coating on the tongue or back of the throat
    • A "strawberry" red tongue
    • Headache
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Abdominal pain
    • Swollen glands
    • Body aches
  2. Image titled Cure Scarlet Fever Step 2
    Seek immediate medical attention.[3] Although scarlet fever itself is generally a mild illness, if left untreated it can result in rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is a serious condition that can cause inflammation of the heart, joints, and nervous system. Other complications that sometimes arise from scarlet fever include:
    • Kidney disease
    • Ear and skin infections
    • Abscesses in the throat
    • Pneumonia
    • Arthritis
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    Get a medical diagnosis.[4] The doctor will perform a physical exam in which he examines the throat, tonsils, and tongue. He'll also feel the neck to check for enlarged lymph nodes and examines the rash. To confirm the diagnosis, he will take a throat swab and have it analyzed for the presence of the strep bacteria.
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    Take the prescribed antibiotics.[5] Because scarlet fever is a bacterial infection, it responds well to antibiotic treatment. These medications should be taken precisely as prescribed to ensure successful treatment. Though not all of these medications will be prescribed, the doctor will recommend whichever combination will best treat your specific case:
    • Amoxicillin: three 30 – 50 mg/kg doses per day for ten days.
    • Augmentin: 30 – 50 mg /kg/day in divided doses given every 12 hours for ten days.
    • Biaxin: an alternative for patients allergic to Penicillin antibiotics like Amoxicillin and Augmentin. 250 mg is taken orally every 12 hours for ten days. It is available in liquid form for children in doses of 250 mg/5cc.
    • Zithromax or Azithromycin: 500 mg orally on day one and 250 mg daily on days two through five.
    • Keflex: 500 mg four times daily for ten days for adults or children over 12. It's available in liquid form for children in doses of 25 – 50 mg/kg/day in divided doses.
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    Be prepared for the side effects of antibiotics.[6] About one in ten people experience side effects from antibiotics. Luckily, these effects are usually fairly mild, and pass whenever you've completed treatment. In most cases, side effects affect the digestive system:
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Bloating and indigestion
    • Stomach pain
    • Loss of appetite
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    Watch for signs of improvement. Within two days of starting antibiotics, you should see an improvement in symptoms like sore throat and fever. You should feel more energetic and begin regaining your appetite. The rash will last a little longer, and will heal over several days or weeks. As it heals, the skin will peel off — this is perfectly normal, so don't panic![7]
    • Let your doctor know if you’re not responding on schedule. It may suggest further complications that need to be addressed.

Method 2
Recovering at Home

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    Get plenty of rest. Studies show that sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system and makes it harder to fight infection. Adequate rest allows the immune system to function properly and respond to infection.[8] The infection will wear you out, so you'll likely want to rest anyway. Even if you have other obligations, put them on the back burner until you've allowed your body to heal.
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    Hydrate your body well. Between the fever, pain response, frequent swallowing, and vomiting, dehydration is common with scarlet fever. Water is crucial to your body's ability to function properly, and when you're sick it needs water even more.[9] You may not be able to keep down large amounts of water, so take frequent sips throughout the day.
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    Eat soft foods in small amounts.[10] Scarlet fever often causes vomiting, so large meals are not recommended. Because your throat will be sore, you should stick to small amounts of soft foods. The main goal is to prevent further vomiting. If vomiting becomes a problem, ask your doctor to prescribe an anti-nausea drug like zofran or phenergan. Examples of soft foods that will help prevent vomiting include:
    • Gelatin
    • Soups or broths
    • Juice
    • Pedia-pops
    • Puddings
    • Rice
    • Applesauce
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    Manage the fever with over-the-counter medications.[11] Begin by taking Tylenol every four hours. If fever lingers, add Motrin (100/5 cc) every 6 hours. This may also help with the headache and throat pain. To cool your body, wear loose fitting, short garments that will not retain body heat.
    • Monitor children's temperatures closely, as high fever in children can lead to febrile seizures.[12] Seek immediate medical attention if the child suffers a febrile seizure.
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    Increase your vitamin C intake. Studies have shown that vitamin C enhance immune function and helps the body fight off infection.[13] You can drink your vitamin C In the form of fresh orange juice or other citrus products, or take a supplement. The recommended supplement dose for adults is 500 mg taken orally once a day for the duration of the illness. Dosage for children will depend on weight and other factors. Consult your doctor for his recommendations.
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    Take care not to spread the infection. Scarlet fever is highly contagious. Infections commonly spread within families, so it may be a good idea to isolate yourself until you've healed. The infection is not spread through shared linens or other objects.[14] It's spread through direct contact or contact with body fluids, so practice excellent hygiene for the duration of the illness:
    • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing .
    • Dispose of all tissues immediately.
    • Wash your hands regularly.
    • If you're caring for someone else with scarlet fever, be careful. Avoid contact with oral or nasal secretions. Take care not to touch your own mouth or nose until you've washed your hands.


  • The bacterial infection is most prevalent in late winter and early spring.[15]


  • If you or your child has scarlet fever, go to the emergency room immediately to begin an antibiotic treatment.

Sources and Citations

  1. Harry McKinnon Jr MD,Thomas Howard MD, Evaluation of the Febrile Patient with a Rash, American Family Physician 2000 Aug 15:62 (4) 804-816
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Article Info

Categories: Infectious Diseases