Scarlet Fever



The infection is caused by a bacterium that makes a toxin that causes a distinct rash. Scarlet fever usually happens along with strep throat.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of scarlet fever are:

  • An untreated strep infection
  • Close contact with someone who has an untreated strep infection
  • Spending time in crowded places, such as a school or daycare



Scarlet fever may cause:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • A distinct, spreading rash that feels like sand paper
  • Flushing in the face with paleness around the mouth
  • Red streaks on the elbows, underarms, and body creases
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Belly pain
  • A bright red tongue
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting

People who also have untreated strep throat may develop:

  • Rheumatic fever
  • Kidney damage
  • Spread of the infection to other areas, such as the ears, sinuses, or lungs
  • Streptococcal toxic shock syndrome
  • An abscess


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may diagnose scarlet fever by the distinct rash.

A throat swab or rapid strep antigen detection test can confirm the diagnosis.



The infection that causes scarlet fever can be treated with antibiotics.

There is no specific treatment for the rash. After the rash fades, the skin peels for several weeks as part of the healing process.


To lower the risk of scarlet fever:

  • Avoid contact with people who have untreated strep infections.
  • Practice proper hand hygiene.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.