Other Names: Acute Rheumatic Fever; Inflammatory Rheumatism

Scarlet fever or Rheumatic fever can occur as a result of a group A Streptococcus (group A strep) infection. The signs and symptoms include a sore throat, fever, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, and a characteristic rash. The rash is red and feels like sandpaper and the tongue may be red and bumpy. It most commonly affects children between five and fifteen years of age.

Scarlet fever affects a small number of people who have either strep throat or streptococcal skin infections. The bacteria are usually spread by people coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread when a person touches an object that has the bacteria on it and then touches their mouth or nose. The characteristic rash is due to the erythrogenic toxin, a substance produced by some types of the bacterium. The diagnosis is typically confirmed by culturing the throat.

There is no vaccine. Prevention is by frequent handwashing, not sharing personal items, and staying away from other people when sick. The disease is treatable with antibiotics which prevents most complications. Outcomes with scarlet fever are typically good. Long-term complications as a result of scarlet fever include kidney disease, rheumatic heart disease, and arthritis. It was a leading cause of death in children in the early 20th century.

Contact the Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center for more information on Scarlet Fever.